Washington Post Columnist Relies on NY Times, Blows It on Exports

By August 21, 2008Economy, General, Trade

In “Obama’s Factory Floor,” the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson today wrongly asserts that the decline in the dollar has not aided manufacturers. The basis of Mr. Meyerson’s claim is a story that appeared in Monday’s New York Times. As Meyerson writes, “Nonetheless, as the New York Times’ Louis Uchitelle reported Monday, most of the rise in U.S. exports has come in corn, wheat and other agricultural commodities, not in aircraft or machinery”.

This is totally false. It turns out that over half of what Mr. Uchitelle claims in his story are unprocessed commodities are actually manufactured products, like steel, chemicals and processed food products. It is manufactured products, not agricultural commodities, that are the driving force behind U.S. export growth.

During the first half of this year, manufactured products accounted for 81 percent of the rise in overall goods exports compared to the first half of 2007. Agricultural exports, by comparison, accounted for just 15 percent of the increase. In fact, exports of machinery and transportation products like aircraft alone increased a third more than all agricultural exports combined!

Mr. Meyerson goes on to ask “Will America ever get its manufacturing back?” Get it back? Last year, U.S. manufacturing production reached an all-time high! The United States is the largest manufacturing economy in the world, accounting for fully a fifth of world-wide manufacturing production in 2006 (latest data available from the United Nations.) Manufacturing production has slowed in recent quarters, but this is mostly due to spillover effects from the ongoing housing recession and a downturn in purchases of motor vehicles, not a lack of export growth.

Mr. Meyerson then goes on to criticize Senator McCain’s support of free trade agreements stating that “McCain has supported every offshoring, free-trade accord, past or pending, that has decimated the Midwest;”. Again, Mr. Meyerson should check his facts. Through the first six months of 2008, U.S. manufacturers had a trade surplus with our Free Trade Partners.

The next time Mr. Meyerson writes on manufacturing and trade, he should first check out the facts. They may lead him to a different conclusion…although knowing Mr. Meyerson’s writings, probably not.

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