In the presidential race this year, what do you think are the most important issues? I can think of a lot of very important issues, but there are some issues that I call the iceberg sinking the ship. If the ship sinks, nothing else is going to matter.
And yes, the ship is sinking.
The first issue of that of jobs. And when I say "first," I am not ranking these issues as to the order of their importance. If a ship is sinking, you need to fix all the holes. Some holes will sink the ship faster than the others, but any one of them will sink the ship.
When there are not enough well-paying jobs for everybody, it drives people to depend on the government for financial assistance. For many people who either don't understand the concept of freedom or who do understand but want to change the fundamental nature of our country, government dependency is a good thing. They call it compassion and a safety net, but the result of this and the intent of many of these people are to increase the role of government in the lives of everybody.
So why would they want to do that, and why would that be a bad thing? Throughout history, there have been essentially only two forms of government: tyranny and freedom. Most governments throughout history have been tyrannies. Life isn't necessarily miserable under a ruler, but there are restraints on the things a person can do and obligations that not everyone will like. But then that's the case everywhere, right? But we forget that our nation fought a war to get the kind of government and the freedoms that we have, or at least the freedoms that may now only still exist on paper.
When we think of tyrannies, we usually think of kings or dictators where one person basically rules the country, and this often happens with a violent takeover; but freedom can be lost piece by piece as people gradually trade freedoms for security, prosperity for a safety net, and responsibility for dependency.
When you have a massive government with an ever-increasing number of rules and laws, the will and the power to force compliance on more and more things that were not issues in the past, when the government believes it is responsible for the economy and is responsible for solving all the problems of society, then your government is going from freedom to tyranny. With the rise of the United States, these two forms of government exist less as absolutes, but countries are seeing a wide range of degrees of freedom and tyranny.
Our nation is moving slowly from freedom to tyranny. Instead of being ruled by the king of England, we are being ruled more and more by government officials who on the surface want to protect us from ourselves and the evil around us, but who are motivated just as much by the power and the money that comes with their position.
The issue of jobs is possibly the single most important factor in preserving our freedoms, because when a person can no longer provide for oneself or one's family, they cry out for somebody to take care of them. Our churches used to be the primary source of public charity in our country, but the government has now taken over that role. This causes the government to grow, requiring more of your money and expanding the government's reach into every area of your life. The loss of jobs reduces revenues to the government while at the same time creates pressure on the government to grow, assume more responsibility and increase governmental spending and, consequently, government debt.
The government has now become responsible for the welfare of the people. The government is now the protector and provider of the people. The government has assumed responsibility for and, consequently, the control of the economy.
So the economy is basically about freedom, but according to Forbes1, more than half the people in our country now receive some form of government aid. So even though people vote for their representatives, the way they vote is usually determined by who will best take care of them. And many voting districts have been drawn in ways that almost ensure the re-election of the people already in office.
When this happens slowly and each new generation is not taught what freedom is all about and each new generation gets used to the increasing role of government in their lives, freedom is traded for rulers who are now looked upon as our benefactors.
The loss of good jobs has also been a large factor in the deterioration of our families and, as a result, the moral deterioration of our country. Those who do work work more jobs and more hours to try to provide for their families and more and more parenting is done by day cares, and raising children becomes a lot like having pets. Feed them twice a day, and see that they don't soil up the house. The lack of good jobs takes parents out of the homes and children are raised too often by people who have little or no vested interest in their lives.
Broken families lead to more crime, but it also contributes to the moral breakdown of our country. What I mean by moral breakdown is that there are a lot of things that are wrong but not illegal. All kinds of corruption, mean-spiritedness, unkindness, abuse, exploitation, indifference, negligence, selfishness, hatred, anger, things that laws either don't touch or can't fix, come from the breakdown of the family. Bringing American jobs back to our country will do more than probably any other one thing to help our country economically, but also in strengthening our country morally.
So why did we lose all these jobs? Labor has almost always been cheaper overseas, but the jobs didn't leave to get cheaper labor. Our corporate taxes are among the highest, if not the highest, in the world, but the jobs didn't leave because of high corporate taxes. Corporate tax rates were raised to help make up for all the money the government no longer was getting from working people. We are told that we must lower our corporate tax rates to bring jobs back to our country, but if that isn't why they left, it won't make much difference in bringing them back.
The jobs left as we stopped taxing imports.
We have forgotten that taxes on imports paid for almost our entire federal budget for most of our nation's history. There was no federal income tax before 1916.
We are told that taxing imports will raise the prices that consumers pay for those goods. But if we remember that these taxes are paid to the government, we can and should expect our government to lower our income taxes.
We are told that Herbert Hoover raised taxes on imports as the Great Depression was just starting, and that was responsible for prolonging and intensifying it. But the Great Depression lasted for another eight years or so under Franklin Delano Roosevelt who raised all kinds of taxes and created all kinds of government programs, and nobody thinks that had anything to do with prolonging the Depression?
Without taxes on imports, the jobs will stay overseas.
We are told that taxing imports will start trade wars, where other nations will tax the goods we send to them, thus hurting our export industry. This has been the cry of those who don't mind having so many of our companies overseas. They talk about all the wonderful export opportunities. But this wasn't an issue for the 140 years before we had an income tax, and this wasn't an issue before we stopped taxing imports and sent our jobs overseas.
We are told that taxing imports will raise the prices of everything we are still bringing into our country. Yes, and we didn't need an income tax prior to 1916 when we used to do that. If the government wouldn't take so much of our money, our income would go up without even getting a raise. Is that just a simple trade off, exchanging higher prices for income taxes? Not quite. If more people have jobs, the decrease in income tax rates would far exceed the added cost for consumer goods. That was how our nation's wealth was built in the first place.
We are told that the world now has a global economy, that we have to support a global economy, and that to resist it is economic suicide. By a global economy, they mean simply free trade, no taxes on imported goods. They use words like protectionism and nationalism to describe those who oppose this, as though we are supposed to understand these words as obvious proofs of these people's folly.
We are told in so many words that putting the needs and interests of our own nation over that of other nations is somehow selfish and arrogant and benefits us at the expense of other nations, as though there were only so much wealth in the world and if we get more, somebody else will have less. They are forgetting that wealth is created by manufacturing, mining, agriculture and fishing. They don't need our companies in their countries for them to gain wealth.
We are talking about our companies making our products to send back to us. If these same countries would make these same products for their own country, they would prosper as well. Why are these other countries depending on our companies making our goods over there for their prosperity?
Foreign goods were always available in our country, and we always paid a premium for them. But these were foreign products, like Swiss chocolate and German watches, not American companies making things somewhere else and then shipping those products back here.
Our political leaders have forgotten our Constitution, for which our Founders fought a war in order to establish. Our government exists to promote the general welfare of the people of the United States. It's like when parents give everything they have to their children. That doesn't mean that they hate or don't care about the other children on the block. But they can only be responsible for those that belong to them over whom they have some control or major influence. We cannot control the events, the people and the governments of other countries, so frankly they have to take care of themselves, except perhaps in the case of a major natural disaster.
Bangladesh has 156 million people. So if we didn't make our shirts there, we would be hurting their economy? They can't support a thriving clothing industry with a market that large. When we made all of our own stuff here, we have jobs for everybody, and they were good paying jobs as well. And that wouldn't work anywhere else?
We are told that globalization is good for everybody because everything is now cheaper. What they are not telling us is that, with globalization, everybody is making a lot less money as the global labor market keeps driving wages downward. A global economy is like adding 3 billion people to the labor force. There are always people who will work for less somewhere in the world, and wages go down everywhere else to try to compete with that.
Rich nations become poorer, and poor nations stay poor. They're not starting their own businesses; they're just relying on ours.
And besides, it is a very dangerous policy to build or base an economy on exports. That means that our prosperity depends first on the prosperity of other nations so that they can buy our goods. Basing our economic health on a global economy ties the economic health of all the nations together such that a problem in one country affects all the others. What this does is create a new normal of a sluggish world economy. Some major country is always experiencing some kind of downturn or economic crisis.
This ideal world of free trade also requires everybody to "play fair," nobody gaming the system by manipulating their currencies. So the experts want to build a global economic system that requires nobody cheating for it to really work? Seriously? You want to build a system that every nation in the world is dependent on but that requires everybody to follow all the rules? Quite frankly, I think the motivation behind this is resentment for the United States being so prosperous. At least it used to be. Before the jobs went overseas, our federal debt was minimal. Now it is almost $20 trillion and counting. And yes, the two are related, and we won't fix the one without fixing the other.
How can we have a robust American economy when it is dependent on nations all over the world having the money to buy our stuff first? We have 330 million people in our own country. If that is not enough of a market for a company to prosper, please don't blame our trade policies.
Before the jobs went overseas, we had plenty of jobs for everyone, well-paying jobs, and our nation prospered. Taxes on imports went away, and the jobs went away, government debt skyrocketed, and wages stagnated. Between this and all the immigration, legal and otherwise, we have record numbers of people on government assistance, which ends up lowering the standard of living of everyone through government borrowing, inflation and higher taxes.
When we made all of our own stuff, the jobs grew as the population grew. Now we don't have enough jobs for all the people who are living in our country, yet at the same time the government keeps bringing millions more people into our country as well as allowing untold numbers of people to just come in however they can.
So how do we bring the jobs back to our country? Corporate tax rates are too high. But they are high only to make up for all the loss of revenue from the loss of jobs. The jobs didn't leave because tax rates were too high, though more have left since they were raised. The jobs didn't leave because labor was cheaper somewhere else. Labor has always been cheaper somewhere else.
The jobs left because we stopped taxing imports. And they will not come back until we do that again. So the presidential candidates all talk about this issue in various ways, but this issue needs to have a national debate and to reach some kind of consensus. The reason is that moving a company from one country to another is a major decision that can involve billions of dollars. If one president instituted a policy which the next president would want to reverse or change, companies could be slow in doing anything differently because the cost of changing could outweigh the cost of staying put.
Right now most opinions you will hear on this matter support free trade. Much of that I believe is due to politically correct thinking that views taxing imports as the work of greedy American companies who want to charge high prices free from the challenges of competition or the outdated notion of putting American interests above that of other countries.
Taxing imports again is the most important means for bringing jobs back to the United States, and frankly there is only one candidate right now who has favored that. That would be Trump. I believe both Clinton and Sanders are against this latest trade deal in the Pacific region because of the potential loss of jobs, but I don't think they have said much about how they would bring back the jobs that have already left.
Larry A. Craig is a pastor and author of the book The Importance of Healing.
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