The GOP’s foreign fans

In their quest to retake Congress, Republicans may have a powerful ally in their corner: China.

As American workers struggle to recover from eight years of GOP policies geared toward multinational corporations, China is rooting for a return to the Bush era. From 2001 to 2008, more than 2.4 million American jobs were lost or displaced due to the U.S. trade deficit with China, according to an Economic Policy Institute report. Years of bad trade deals, carefully guarded by Bush, dealt a devastating blow to the once-thriving U.S. manufacturing sector, robbing Americans of good jobs and tilting the economic playing field even further toward rival nations. And no one stands to benefit more from a Republican resurgence than the most populous country on the planet.

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If the GOP wins in November, the Speaker’s gavel will be handed from Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — an outspoken critic of China’s unfair trade practices and human-rights abuses — to free-trade extremist John Boehner (R-Ohio). Four years ago, The Washington Post reported that Boehner had “joined a minority of Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to scuttle legislation that would mandate sanctions for individuals, firms or countries selling arms to China.” Hey, why muck up the free market?

Back then, the Post suggested Boehner was out of step with many in his party. But since President Obama took office, Boehner has led the GOP on a host of other China-friendly efforts.

First, congressional Republicans voted against the Recovery Act, opposing clean-energy jobs that would otherwise be created in India or China. The House GOP voted to protect tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas, a gift to the corporate interests that generously support Republican candidates in campaign season.

The GOP now pledges to repeal the health reform law. If they succeed, Republicans would add $1.3 trillion to our budget deficit — plunging America even deeper in debt to China. And Boehner’s choice in the Ohio Senate race is the very architect of Bush’s pro-China trade policies: former U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. (Disclosure: Portman’s opponent, Lee Fisher, is an AKPD client.)

The American people are well-aware of the economic threat from abroad. In a new bipartisan poll by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, 58 percent of respondents said the U.S. did not have the strongest economy in the world. Among those voters, 36 percent gave China that designation, far more than any other country named. Voters said President Obama was helping to enforce fair trade with foreign nations by a margin of 52 to 36 percent. By contrast, only 36 percent said congressional Republicans were helping, while 50 percent said they weren’t.

Republicans know voters don’t trust them to take on China, so they’re defending the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations, including those controlled by foreign interests, to participate in American elections. The

Democrats’ Disclose Act, which would address this dangerously anti-democratic loophole, was dismissed as “misguided” by Boehner, and passed the House with just two Republican votes.
This fall, Americans will hear from both parties about plans for strengthening the economy. But when Republicans speak, listen closely for just what economy they’re talking about.

Del Cecato is a partner at AKPD Message and Media, the political consulting firm founded by David Axelrod in 1985. He served as media adviser and ad-maker for Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008.

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