Third Way has now posted its news release and report, “Why Lou Dobbs is Winning,” released at a Capitol Hill news conference today. It’s a very helpful contribution to the public debate, especially for those who understand the economic and empirical arguments about trade’s value, but who also recognize the powerful political, activist and media forces (e.g. Dobbs) aligned against the openness and opportunity that trade represents. Politicians respond to those forces, so trade advocates have to make compelling counterarguments.
The report identifies three reasons for the failings of trade supporters:
A failure of vision. Free trade has succeeded when it has been linked to compelling causes, such as winning the Cold War. Today, the overall goal of US engagement in the world is far less clear. Values trump data. Opponents of free trade appeal to values like “fairness” and “justice,” while proponents rely on data and opaque economic theory. An anxious middle-class. Trade proponents have not offered policies that help restore confidence to a middle-class that has been profoundly shaken by the negative impacts of globalization.
In many ways, the report reads like a good campaign or marketing document: We have a strong case and a great product, now let’s help the consumer appreciate the value. There are many, many manufacturing workers in America earning very good livings right now thanks to U.S. exports. We need to tell their stories with more vigor and frequency.
In addition, Third Way calls for policies that address the economic anxieties that give rise to anti-trade sentiment. We can debate the particulars — although the emphasis on education, investment and innovation is definitely well-placed — but the need to engage is beyond doubt.
So good work and good timing, as Congress gets ready to act on the free trade agreements with Peru and then Colombia and Panama (and eventually Korea).