Photo credit: Reuters

Friday, December 27, 2013

Buy America!

Dear Mr. President,
Today’s NYT (“For Toledo, Cash To Grow; For Chinese, Closer Ties” p. A12) tells how this rust belt town of 280,000, once the glass capital of the world, had to buy glass panels for the new wing of their museum from the Chinese because the glass industry has been off-shored and what’s left of it no longer had the capacity to fill the order. A pretty sad commentary on the state of America, what’s happened to our industrial capacity and why we’ve got so many people unemployed. We can’t even make the glass for own windows! But here’s the grabber: because of that glass order, the Chinese discovered Toledo, its key location—a major port on the Great Lakes, a regional rail and highway hub—and its depressed real estate market, and decided to invest in the city, bought hotels, restaurants, riverfront property and abandoned factories that could be refurbished and made functional again. Things are looking up for Toledo, thanks to the Chinese. The article also talks about other Chinese investments in the U.S.—$12.2 billion in the first 9 months of 2013: “Chinese investors have been buying commercial and residential real estate in Detroit, inexpensively because of the city’s financial troubles, and have agreed to finance a $1.5 billion waterfront development in Oakland, Calif. This year, on a trade trip to China, Gov. Jerry Brown of California discussed Chinese investment in the state’s troubled $91 billion bullet train project. Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee have also increased their push for Chinese investment.” What’s absent is any mention of U.S. investment, underwriting or loans to resuscitate our ailing cities. When you think about it, it’s pretty clear why. Unlike the Chinese, we spend our money on war, not infrastructure, not loans to develop waterfront property or refurbish hotels, factories and restaurants, or bail out pensioners or bankrupt cities. That’s the price of war, selling America to foreigners—in this case the Chinese, who know a good deal when they see it. Meanwhile, we give billions in military aid to dictators and military regimes, spend tens of billions on useless spying and give subsidies to corporate farmers while ending unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed—like the folks who used to work in the glass factories of Toledo—and cutting food stamps and child health programs…a litany of outrage. What’s wrong with this picture, Mr. President? To those of us out here on the hustings, the answer’s pretty obvious.

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