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United States and Free Trade

September 05, 1985

The Times reported (Aug. 23) that Ford Motor Co. plans to lay off more than 9,000 white-collar employees in the next three years. It has already reduced its white-collar ranks from 85,000 (1978) to 69,000.

This will be done because Ford must become "more competitive with the Japanese."

Ford is not alone, either in laying off employees, or giving the excuse that such cuts have to be made "to compete with the Japanese."

There is a much more sensible way to make American-made products "cost-competitive" with Japanese imports, and that is to assess tariffs, or import taxes, on such imports. That, however, is a step the United States refuses to take. That would be "protectionism," God forbid!

You would think "protectionism" was a dirty word. If so, how come we have an Army and Navy and Air Force? Aren't they to provide "protectionism" for Americans against invasion? Why do we have immigration laws, if not to "protect" us from floods of immigrants that our society could not absorb? Why do we have agricultural inspections of imported fruits and vegetables, if not to "protect" us from various pests or diseases? Why do we maintain border patrols to catch dope smugglers, if not to "protect" us from illegal substances brought in from other countries?

In short, why is it OK to provide "protectionism" for almost everything except American jobs? We already provide a domestic form of "protectionism" for the dairy industry, in that the government buys, and stores, at taxpayers' expense, much of what that industry produces, even though there is no market for it.

The same issue of The Times that reported the Ford layoffs, provided the information, in another story, that our trade deficit with Japan, last year, amounted to $37 billion. Thirty-seven billion dollars. That means, in simpler terms, that we paid Japan 37 billion dollars more than the Japanese paid us, for products produced.

But, of course, that isn't seen as a danger--at least, not as much of a danger as "protectionism" in the form of import taxes would be!


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