Daniel W. Drezner

The DSCC wants China to starve to death

Trying to pick the most offensive campaign ad of this election season is not easy — there’s a long and distinguished list of truly offensive ads out there. However, my award for Most Offensive Ad goes to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with this attack ad on Pennsylvania Republican senatorial candidate Pat Toomey: I’ll give ...

Trying to pick the most offensive campaign ad of this election season is not easy — there’s a long and distinguished list of truly offensive ads out there. However, my award for Most Offensive Ad goes to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with this attack ad on Pennsylvania Republican senatorial candidate Pat Toomey:

I’ll give credit to the DSCC: Not everything in the ad is offensive, just 98 percent of it. By far, however, the worst part is the DSCC’s suggestion that Pennsylvanians not vote for Toomey because he thinks that "it’s great that China is modernizing and growing." Using that logic, apparently the DSCC supports doing everything to keep China backwards and impoverished. Which, if you think about it a little bit, is really disgusting.

I’d love to say that this is the only anti-globalization ad of this election cycle, but that’s obviously not true. In another ad, the DSCC blasts Toomey for — God forbid — spending part of his career overseas. Forbes’ Shikha Dalmia points out, however, that both sides have been throwing up mercantilist ads as fast as they can produce them: 

Virg Bernero, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, where I live, has dubbed his opponent, Rick Snyder, Chief Executive Outsourcer (ha, ha). Mr. Snyder’s crime is that he is a successful businessman who invested in a semiconductor company that once employed five — five! — people in Shenzen to sell its products in China. In other words, it is no longer a sin to buy from China. It is also a sin to sell to China! (Where did Bernero get his views on trade theory, anyway? The Kim Jong Il School of Autarky?)

Nor is Bernero alone in the Democratic Party: California Sen. Barbara Boxer is accusing her opponent Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, of outsourcing thousands of jobs to "Shanghai instead of San Jose"; Senate Speaker Harry Reid is calling Sharron Angle "a foreign worker’s best friend"; and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Attorney General running for Senate, who lied about serving in Vietnam, has the temerity to attack his opponent, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, for "outsourcing" American jobs because her company got toy action figures manufactured in China instead of America.

Hostility to trade is par for the course for Democrats perennially beholden to Big Labor, but what is the excuse of Republicans — the alleged believers in free markets? In race after race, they too are hitting China to beat Democrats. In West Virginia, Spike Maynard, a Republican running for the House is airing ads against his opponent, complete with Asian music in the background, castigating him for giving stimulus money to a Texas company that happens to be buying windmills from China. Meanwhile, in Virginia Republican Robert Hurt is accusing Rep. Tom Perriell of supporting tax breaks for foreign companies "creating jobs in China."

Well, it’s not that surprising to see this. Americans think about trade through a mercantilist, relative gains lens, as opposed to the radical concept that trade can generate win-win outcomes. The Obama administration has abetted this mindset with a trade policy that careens between an idiotic exclusive focus on exports and complete radio silence. And, of course, China has been taking steps in recent months in order to perfect their role as economic bogeyman.

I’d love to say that if the Obama administration mounted a full-throated defense of trade liberalization, this mindset would go away. The thing is, I don’t believe that. As the Gallup data suggests, even decent growth rates won’t eliminate the zero-sum mindset that people have when it comes to free trade. 

Developing… in a thoroughly depressing manner. 

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