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Heartland Poll: Continued Public Support for Action on Trade
Jesse Richman, 12/9/2010

The newly released National Review / Allstate Heartland Poll contained an extensive battery of questions on trade and US manufacturing.  The poll reveals strong public majorities in favor of a variety of measures that would move trade towards balance. 

For example, 68 percent of respondents supported a policy requiring that "a certain percentage of every high-end manufactured product, such as automobiles, heavy machinery, and transportation equipment, sold in the U.S. also be produced or assembled within the U.S., even if that means higher prices for their products?"

By 52 to 43 percent, respondents indicated that they believed that "International trade has been BAD for the U.S. economy..." 

67 percent believed that "Decisions by American Companies to relocate jobs to other countries" played a major role in creating unemployment in recent years.

A mere 21 percent of respondents thought that "Government should pursue more free-trade agreements to open foreign markets to American-made goods and services and allow foreign countries have more access to our markets, encourage legal immigration of workers into the U.S. for jobs where we can use their expertise, and encourage the free flow of investment of American money overseas and foreign investment in the U.S." with the remaining respondents evenly divided between protectionism and export promotion strategies as appropriate alternatives.  A strategy like the scaled tariff or import certificates which does both of these would seem like a good bet given this polling. 

There was a majority (51 to 45 percent) that agreed with this statement.  "Some people say that because American workers are paid higher wages than workers in other countries, it is difficult for the U.S. to effectively compete with other countries in basic manufacturing industries. As a result, they say it is important to America’s national interests for the government to implement policies that would in effect subsidize America’s manufacturing industries, even if it means putting in place tariffs and taxes on foreign products that will increase prices for U.S. consumers and businesses."  And an even larger majority agreed with an argument that the US should aggressively pursue policies aimed at building American advantage in advanced manufacturing through training, taxes, research subsidies and the like. Meanwhile, a scant 34 percent agreed with the argument that the US should allow the trend away from manufacturing to continue. 

Although the poll has a variety of interesting questions, as summarized above, one notable omission was any discussion of the U.S. trade deficit.  This hardly makes sense because the trade deficit is a major reason why the shift away from U.S. production and manufacturing is a problem.  If the U.S. was producing other goods or services to exchange for those which are now being imported, the implications for the US economy would be much better. 

The overall message though, is striking and clear.  There are substantial majorities in favor of a substantial shift away from the status quo towards policies that promote U.S. exports and limit U.S. imports.  60 percent of respondents believed that the country was on the wrong track.  Whether anything substantial will be done about this in Washington, however, remains much in doubt.  

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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]