America for sale to the highest bidder

by Jim Longworth

It is sadly ironic that while everyone from Congress to local credit counselors are trying to make home ownership more affordable for individuals, we as a nation are forfeiting ownership of our collective home. That’s because day by day, foreign interests are buying up our real estate, corporations and landmarks.

Donald Trump, that cheerleader for American entrepreneurship, just sold his Palm Beach mansion to a Russian fertilizer mogul for $95 million. An oil sheik from Abu Dhabi bought the historic Chrysler building for $800 million. And Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser (a distinctly American beer), just sold out to InBev of Belgium for $52 billion. But those examples of foreign ownership are only disturbing to us because of their high visibility. Not so easily visible, however, is the sell-out by our federal government driven by debts and deficits. Our total federal debt now exceeds $9 trillion, primarily because Congress has continued to borrow huge sums of money in order to finance our growing rate of spending and consumption. Meanwhile our trade deficits have skyrocketed because of unfair trade agreements. For example, since China joined the World Trade Organization, our trade deficit has more than tripled, from $84 billion in 2001 to $262 billion in 2007. And how we have financed those trade deficits? By selling US Treasury bonds to foreign central banks. As such, foreign ownership of marketable US debt has tripled from 15 percent in 1986 to 42 percent last year. According to Stanford University economist Alvin Rabushka, Asian banks hold the biggest chunk of our markers, $250 billion to be exact, followed by Saudi Arabia with $100 billion and Russia with $80 billion. The handwriting has been on the wall for more than two decades. Back in 1992 independent presidential candidate Ross Perot tried to make us understand the crisis we faced, but hardly anyone of any influence has done so since. One who did was New York University professor Nouriel Roubini who in 2006 warned, “In a matter of a few years foreigners may end up owning most of the US capital stock, ports, factories, corporations, land, real estate and national parks…. [I]f we continue with our current pattern of spending above our incomes, by 2013, the US foreign liabilities could be as high as 75 percent of GDP.” But instead of attacking the problem, our last two presidents have just thrown fuel on the fire by creating one-sided trade pacts. Meanwhile our federal legislators have thrown good money after bad. As Washington Post columnist David Ignatius remarked, Congress has “piled up IOU’s on America’s future” by overspending on wars, earmarks and government bloat. And with countries like China financing our debt, it’s no wonder that Congress won’t do anything to repeal bad trade agreements, or place moratoria on all investments between and among US and foreign companies. Our politicians are simply afraid that our enemy lenders will, in a matter of speaking, foreclose on us. But that fear is almost moot, because we are already paying a high price for abdicating ownership over our own country anyway. According to the Economic Policy Institute, our trade practices have cost America more than 2 million jobs, and that includes 271,000 manufacturing jobs lost just since December. Free trade advocates say that it’s all part of a new global economy in which the United States will move away from manufacturing and become the world leader in high tech. But guess what? Over a half million of those jobs we’ve lost were held by highly educated, highly skilled computer and electronic workers. That means over the past 15 years, Bush, Gore, Clinton and Congress have sold us down both ends of the same river, with countries like China holding the paddle. And while I’m placing blame and naming names, let me offer a belated congratulations to Hanesbrands multimillionaire CEO Richard Noll. Last week Noll announced that he is increasing his workforce in China where employees are reportedly paid one dollar an hour (as opposed to the $17 per hour he had to pay US workers). Noll, as you recall, is singlehandedly responsible for some 14,000 American jobs leaving our shores in the past year, and he isn’t done yet. Brad Stephens of Morgan Keegan told the Winston-Salem Journal that by 2012, Americans will only constitute 6 percent of the Hanesbrands workforce, while slave-wage laborers in China will comprise 55 percent. Our only hope of reversing the trend in job losses and debts is for Congress to grow a spine and repeal all one-sided trade pacts, and place a moratorium on the construction of US factories abroad and the transfer of American jobs overseas. We must also hope that our representatives will become fiscally responsible and take action to reduce deficit spending. If not, we can just sit back and count the days until we’re totally owned by the Asians and Arabs. The good news is that by then, America will be a third world nation and China can outsource its Hanesbrands jobs back to the United States, where we’ll all earn eight dollars a day to make underwear. God bless our global economy.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).