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Tallying the costs of 'buy American'

February 08, 2009

Re: David Lazarus' consumer column, "Stimulus proposal revives bad idea," Feb. 1:

Kudos for the excellent article on the "buy American" provisions in the stimulus bill. As a former chair of the U.S. International Trade Commission, I know well what can happen when protectionists take control of economic policy: Less competition will lead to higher prices and lower quality. Protectionism and Buy America provisions will only exacerbate and prolong the recession.

Susan Liebeler

Malibu

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Lazarus fell for the usual "economist perspective" on foreign trade. "The freer the trade the better" is said to unite all economists. Well, I am an economist with a graduate degree, and I disagree.

How about "the fairer the trade the better?" That makes more sense to me. Consider the example of the origin of steel for projects associated with the infrastructure initiative in the stimulus package. The U.S. steel industry produces steel with less pollution and a smaller carbon footprint than any country in the world.

If the total cost were to be considered, then we would be closer to fair trade.

To blindly follow the "free trade muse" is a prescription for worldwide disaster.

Ron Drake

Santa Barbara

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