The failure of the nation’s productive capacity to keep up with its needs was not inevitable. It was a choice. Over the last 30 years, experts and politicians in Washington from both parties helped build a global economic system that prioritized the free flow of capital over the wages of American workers, and the free flow of goods over the resiliency of our nation’s supply chains. We liberalized and expanded trade relations with China under the delusion that it could be influenced into becoming a peace-loving democracy. We ceded more and more of our national sovereignty to multinational organizations like the World Trade Organization, and supported China’s membership to that body.
The consequences of these bad policies have been disastrous. They’ve created trade patterns that have helped multinational corporations boost their profits by exploiting cheap labor abroad and offshoring America’s industrial commons and the capabilities of its manufacturing sector. As a result, thousands of factories have shuttered, millions of jobs have been shipped overseas and the economic security of the United States is now more vulnerable to unpredictable crises like global pandemics, and America is dangerously dependent on the productive capacity of China, our chief adversary. These policies were sold to us as a path to greater wealth, but they’ve made us weaker and more vulnerable.
The global pandemic has exposed this system for what it is — a failure. When our supply chains collapse like a house of cards during a surge in demand, our trade deficit reaches a record high and our nation faces a shortage of critical inputs like semiconductors and life-saving pharmaceutical drugs, alarm bells should sound.
But President Biden seems determined to repeat the follies of the past. His administration acts as if we must embrace lower expectations and that America must come to accept that unstable supply and volatile prices are unavoidable. As if we are too weak to do otherwise.
That’s wrong. America is a strong nation. We should start acting like one. While distribution problems are a factor right now in the crisis, structural reforms are imperative to reassert our economic independence. We need to fundamentally restructure our country’s trade policy and decouple our security and safety from the profit-seeking of multinational corporations. I’m proposing new legislation to take a big first step: the Make in America to Sell in America Act.
Read the full op-ed here.