Dr. Obama’s ‘bump in the road’

by Jim Longworth

Last week while speaking to Jeep workers in Toledo, Ohio, President Obama said that our economic recovery had “hit a bump in the road.” But later in that same speech he went off script and said, “It’s like getting hit by a truck; it will take some time to get over.”

For a moment, I thought I was listening to Sarah Palin or George Bush, who are known for using inappropriately mangled metaphors. One minute we’ve hit a bump in the road, and the next we’ve been crushed by a tractor-trailer. There’s a big difference, so which is it? Truth be told, the truck analogy was probably a more accurate description of our current condition.

For example, the Obama administration had projected that 150,000 jobs would be created in May, but by the end of last month, the nation had netted only 54,000 new jobs. Meanwhile, political pundits joked that had it not been for McDonald’s hiring summer help, Obama might not have created any jobs. That sentiment was reminiscent of earlier this year when the administration bragged about jobs being created, only to discover that most of them were for temporary census workers. The White House also likes to boast about bringing the unemployment level to under 10 percent, but that is a misleading statistic. As Fareed Zakaria observed, if you add up the number of people who are unemployed, plus those who have stopped looking for work, and those who have settled for part time jobs, there are actually 24 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed. Even more telling is the fact that over 40 percent of unemployed persons have been out of work for six months or longer, and that hasn’t happened since the Great Depression. Speaking of which, a CNN poll released last week reported that 48 percent of all Americans think we’re headed for a another depression. Public perception may not always be an accurate economic barometer, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and right now, Washington is blowing plenty of smoke up our butts while the economy goes up in flames.

In all fairness, the president and his party don’t have the market cornered on failed economic policies. GOP lawmakers throughout the nation believe that budgets must be slashed at all costs. But those costs include the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of them teach ers.

Republicans obviously don’t realize that more people without jobs means less people who can afford to buy goods and services, and that means less tax revenue. There is, however, one way to fix our economy, but neither political party has had the courage to do it. I’m referring of course to the repeal of our lopsided trade agreements.

In 1992 Ross Perot predicted that NAFTA (and later, CAFTA) would suck jobs out of America and ruin our economy. His prediction came true. In the last 10 years alone, more than 50,000 manufacturing plants have been closed in the United States, and millions of people thrown out of work as a result of so called free trade. But the plants weren’t shuttered because companies couldn’t compete globally. They were closed because bad trade agreements and unethical tax breaks made it attractive and profitable for greedy corporations to send their jobs overseas, pay slave wages to third-world workers and ship their goods back into America without having to pay high tariffs. China has an import tariff of 22 percent. India’s trade tax is 44 percent. But we let anything and everything into our country for just 2 percent. We must stop this madness by renegotiating all of our trade agreements, and make it attractive for American companies to hire American workers once again.

And while Congress is deliberating on how to reform our trade deals and the tax loopholes that encourage the continuing decimation of America’s workforce, the president should sign an executive order that will require all retailers to post signage that says the following: “Warning: Purchasing cheap goods made overseas is hazardous to our economy.” This kind of federal warning isn’t a new concept. We have it on cigarette packs in order to save lives, so we should be able to have it in store windows in order to save jobs.

America hasn’t hit a bump in the road. We have been run over by a big-ass truck while it was hauling our jobs away, and we’re in traction as a result. That’s why the only way for us to fully recover is for the government to repeal our trade deals and stop rewarding American corporations for moving their workforce overseas. It’s up to Dr. Obama to heal us, and if he can’t prescribe the right course of action, then we need to get a second opinion in 2012.

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).