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Obama’s Dumb Criticism of Romney on China Currency

ElectionOracle / US Presidential Election 2012 Sep 16, 2012 - 03:08 PM GMT

By: Ian_Fletcher

ElectionOracle

Mitt Romney, as I've noted, has been heating up the issue of Obama's failure to stop China's currency manipulation.

This currency manipulation is a big distorter of our trade with China, and therefore a big driver of America's trade deficit, which makes it a big driver of job loss and deindustrialization.


Romney is promising to do something about this problem, though, as I've written, it's not 100 percent clear whether he intends to keep his promises on this issue or not.

He's running an ad attacking the administration.

Which is hitting back with an ad of its own, below, calling Romney a phony on the issue because, in his days at Bain Capital, companies his firm controlled were involved in outsourcing American jobs:

This is, frankly, a dumb criticism.

If America's laws and policy environment are set up so that it is legal to, for example, make furniture in cheap-labor nations overseas and import it to the U.S., then companies in this industry either have to match the cost of the importers or go broke.

Which usually, in an industry where labor is the main cost of production susceptible to change, means moving production offshore themselves.

There may be limited exceptions for special niche products or goods that are beyond the industrial sophistication of such nations, but other than that, individual companies really don't have the option of defying the overall economic environment.

This is not an abstraction. I've worked in industries, like the garment trade, where foreign labor costs set the industry's pricing structure. We may not have liked it, and we might have preferred a different U.S. government policy that would have enabled us to afford to employ American labor and still make a profit. But we were stuck.

Any one-firm heroics on our part would just have resulted in our not being there anymore.

So when Bain Capital was investing in industries open to competition from low-wage nations, they didn't have a whole lot of choice about offshoring. Some, maybe, but not a lot.

Therefore, I don't think Mitt Romney is a "hypocrite" to have rationally responded, as a businessman, to the policy environment of 10 years ago and want, today, to change that environment.

Whether he intends to keep his promises is still an open question, but I don't think anything he's done as a businessman proves, per se, that he doesn't.

Some issues in our economy simply cannot be meaningfully responded to at the level of individual people or individual companies. They are systemic, macro-scale issues where our government is the only entity that can provide a solution.

There are legitimate criticisms of Bain Capital to be made. This isn't one of them.

Ian Fletcher is the author of the new book Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What Should Replace It and Why (USBIC, $24.95)  He is an Adjunct Fellow at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington think tank founded in 1933.  He was previously an economist in private practice, mostly serving hedge funds and private equity firms. He may be contacted at ian.fletcher@usbic.net.

© 2012 Copyright  Ian Fletcher - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


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