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Who Killed the Middle Class?


"It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class."

So said Barack Obama in his State of the Union.

And for one of his ideas to reignite that engine, Republicans applauded.

"And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs."

One wonders if any of those in the hall who rose robotically at the phrase "free and fair" were aware of the trade results just in from 2012.

What were the 2012 figures for the European Union?

U.S. exports to Europe fell, imports from Europe rose, and our trade deficit with the EU shot up 16 percent to $116 billion.

We ran a trade deficit with Italy of $20 billion, with Ireland of $25 billion, with Germany of $60 billion. The Europeans are eating our lunch.

What about South Korea, the country with whom we signed a free-trade deal in 2012?

U.S. exports to Korea fell last year, and due to a surge in imports our trade deficit in goods with South Korea soared 25 percent to $16.6 billion.

Seoul's trade minister who cut that deal and cleaned our clock should get a medal and the kind of bonus Americans reserve for people like hedge fund managers and the folks who ran Fannie and Freddie.

And Japan? Last year, Nippon ran a $76 billion trade surplus with the United States, second largest of any country.

But that is insufficient for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has bullied the Bank of Japan to drive down the yen 20 percent against the dollar in three months — to increase exports to America and cut imports.

Look for the U.S. trade deficit with Tokyo to explode.

What about that NAFTA treaty the establishments of both parties heralded in the Clinton era? How has that worked out for Uncle Sam?

Last year, the United States ran a trade deficit of $32 billion with Canada and twice that, $61 billion, with Mexico.

What was America's overall trade position in 2012?

We ran a global trade deficit in goods of $736 billion. That is 5 percent of the U.S. economy. We are hemorrhaging jobs, factories, wealth.

In banking, consulting, lawyering — i.e., services — we had a nice surplus.

That's what we Americans do now.

Since Bush 1, when some of us began to argue loudly that a mindless ideological pursuit of free trade would imperil America's industrial base, the total of U.S. trade deficits in goods with the world is approaching $10 trillion — 10 thousand billion dollars!

Might this humongous dumping of foreign goods into the U.S.A., killing our factories, and the liberation of our transnational elite to close plants, outsource production, and bring foreign-made goods back free of charge into the U.S. market, have had something to do with killing the middle class?

The U.S. median income stopped growing in the mid-1970s, the same time we began to run 40 straight years of ever-expanding trade deficits.

And how are we doing with China?

Well, if one reads the weekend Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9-10, on page A3 in the lower left-hand corner is a box with a story headlined, "Trade Gap Shrinks 21 Percent as Oil Imports Decline."

A positive headline, but about December only. In the 10th paragraph, however, was this tiny item: "Although the trade deficit with China narrowed 15.5 percent in December ... the year-long deficit grew to a record."

"Grew to a record"? What did that mean?

Elsewhere, one learns that the U.S. trade deficit in goods with China was not only an all-time record, but the largest between any two nations in the history of the world — $315 billion.

China now exports 6.3 times as much in manufactured goods to the United States, $417 billion's worth, as we export to China.

Over two decades, Republicans in the lead, America granted Beijing most favored nation status, then permanent normal trade relations. Then we squired Beijing into the World Trade Organization.

And since the courtship began, the trade surpluses China has run with the United States have enriched, empowered and emboldened her so that, today, brimming with ethnonational arrogance, China has laid claim to all the islands in the South and East China seas and is telling the U.S. Navy to stay out of the Yellow Sea and Formosa Strait.

And the free-trade fanatics responsible for building up this Asian colossus challenging us in the Pacific now tell us we must "pivot" — i.e., shift — our planes, ships and troops out of Europe and the Mideast to Asia and the Western Pacific to contain the mighty and mammoth power their stupidity created.

Every nation seems to understand what our baby boomers were never taught. A trade balance is a measure of national power that reliably identifies rising and falling nations.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



5 Comments | Post Comment
The thing to keep in mind is that all USA trade deficits are denominated in dollars, that all countries that want to sell to us agree to accept dollars as payment. For just the cost of "ink and paper" we get all that the world has to offer.

To pay off these huge trade debts Uncle Sam can simply put the dollar printing presses on double triple overtime and print up the cash.

Downside that many expect in our future: Flooding the world with such massive amounts of USA currency WILL lead to a dollar collapse and then hyper inflation on America's soil. A trip to Walmart will then cost like a trip to Neiman Marcus.

Ask yourself why Washinton refuses to directly address the problems brought on us all by NAFTA, WTO, GATT.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Soothsayer
Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:38 PM
The issue is incompetence. Mr. B sports quite a bit of his own. What he is trying to say is that the Obama Admin is every bit as incompetent as he is.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:40 PM
It didn't really seem like Pat was bashing Obama at all. He hardly mentioned him. Pat just spewed out a bunch of facts, but didn't really draw any conclusions. I would have liked to hear what Pat thinks of all these numbers, rather than just the numbers themselves.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:11 AM
Re: Chris McCoy

What I take from this exercise is that the Democrat Party is no more of a friend to the working man/family than is the Republican Party, as the Dems have had the big wheel since '08.

By the way, I was in the UAW for three years.

I remember a retired union brother (he was from Caterpillar, I wasn't) slamming his fist on the table approx. 20 years ago and saying to me with passion "The Democrat party is the party of the working man! The Republican party has never done anything for the working man!"

I replied, "Wake up, man. Bill Clinton just signed NAFTA two weeks ago. Do you realize what this means? Do you?"
True story

Its not that Obama is a sellout (to big: banks, wallstreet, pharma, military defense industry) is just that BOTH parties are equally sold out.

Neither actually cares about a living wage that can sustain the traditional middle class American family. It's a race to the lowest common global denominator.

You and the dude in Sri Lanka will be paid the same. Guess who gets the haircut

All the news headlines of today about gangs, drugs and gun violence are not only symptoms of a society in decay, but most importantly clear evidence of the American family in decay.

I bet another one million well paid American manufacturing jobs move to Mexico before Obama leaves office.

Hope Red Lobster is hiring....
Comment: #4
Posted by: Soothsayer
Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:18 PM
Sooth, Red Lobster will not be hiring because Obamacare is going to kill low wage jobs. Companies will now have to pay $7 an hour per employee just to comply with the ACA. Thats on top of their wages and other things. Thats no big deal for high skill workers, but its a huge deal for low skill workers making $9 an hour.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:29 AM
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