America losing an economic war with China
(The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.)
This is the time of year when many communities set property tax rates. Invariably, taxes are going up and the discussion will turn to lessening the burden by attracting new business - even if it means those businesses from a neighboring community.
As these situations play out every year, our communities fight over a fast-diminishing pool of manufacturers, the scraps of what was once a robust segment of our economy. We’re not alone. It’s happening in nations across the world, and the culprit is the same: China.
For 13 years we’ve been at the losing end of an economic war, one that we have largely refused to fight. Instead we’ve rattled our rhetoric ineffectively as losses have grown. It’s estimated that 57,000 American manufacturers have closed during that time. For many American workers, their final act is boxing up their manufacturing equipment to ship to China.
As of 2011, America is estimated to have lost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs directly to Chinese competition - plus an unknown number of jobs in related sectors.
This economic war began in 2001, after the United States and others championed China's entry into the World Trade Organization. This allowed China, which had a notorious reputation for unfair trade practices, to trade on par with nations that followed the WTO’s strict policies. It was naively thought that China's entry would mean it would start following the rules, that its working class would embrace democracy and prosperity, and that other nations would gain equal access to China’s economy.
None of those things happened. In the meantime, China continues its old tricks — subsidizing its private sector to destroy foreign competition, manipulating its currency to give itself a trade advantage, and suppressing workers. It has stolen intellectual property from U.S. companies and bullied American businesses attempting to enter its market. All as it continues to buy up our mounting public debt, furthering our dependence on it.
The European Union nearly entered an economic war with China earlier this year in an effort to combat such predatory strategies. China’s autocratic government seeks to dominate the world economy and only responds to serious threats, as the recent showdown with the EU proved.
Meanwhile, our internal bickering is distracting us. President Obama skipped a crucial Asian summit last month, a move widely seen as giving China an advantage in efforts to dominate its Asian neighbors. Instead, Obama stayed home to deal with Congress’ shutdown of the federal government.
“I’m sure the Chinese don’t mind that I’m not there right now,” he said. “There are areas where we have differences, and they can present their point of view and not get as much push back as if I were there.”
So, as our communities set tax rates and renew a scramble for the scraps of industry, keep in mind the connection between our fates and the global picture. It's up to our federal government to deal with economic threats facing our nation. China is a formidable and predatory force that wants it all.
A trans fat ban helps us all
(Plattsburgh, N.Y., Press-Republican)
A government plan to ban trans fats is good news for our collective health - despite critics' claims that the Food and Drug Administration is overstepping its regulatory authority.
Scientists are unanimous that consuming trans fats raises a person's chances of having a heart attack. So the government is moving toward a decree that food manufacturers may no longer use the artificial additive that gives food have a longer shelf-life and a less greasy feel.
Some doctors consider trans-fatty acids the worst type of fat because they both raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol while lowering “good” (HDL) cholesterol. These acids are made by hydrogenation, or infusing vegetable oil with hydrogen. It's not clear why but this process increases cholesterol more than in other types of fats.
So the government is trying to save lives with a proposed ban. The Food and Drug Administration predicts it will prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year.
Food manufacturers don’t seem particularly upset. They’ll go on making their products, with or without trans fats, and continue to realize profits. Alternatives already exist.
But the outrage from others is predictable. Forget the lives being saved, this is yet another example of the government trying to control some aspect of people's lives.
Consider these two elements: Not everybody is equipped to save oneself from nutritional peril, and needless exposure to heart disease costs us all in Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.
If the debate over the people's right to choose trans fats involved informed choice, there might not be any debate at all. Intelligent adults armed with the information they need can indeed decide their own diet without the government’s help.
But not everyone is an intelligent adult. What about millions of children who visit vending machines stuffed with bags of snacks with unhealthy ingredients? Should they be left to their own discretion in deciding what to eat? We should be thankful that somebody is looking out for them.
And if thousands of heart attacks can be avoided every year without compromising the taste of food, every taxpayer should rejoice.
It’s not as if muffins are being banned. They’re not — just the worst ingredient, which will be replaced with a better one.
In the United States, let freedom ring … with healthful, life-saving portions.