If Bernie Sanders Cares about Poor People, Why Doesn’t He Want to Trade with Them?


SandersSo Bernie Sanders did a sit-down chat with the New York Daily News. The interview led off with some questioning on trade. Now I’ve been pretty critical of Donald Trump’s protectionist stance on trade. And frankly Sanders is no better. Read it for yourself, but I want to focus on this bit:

Daily News: Another one of your potential opponents has a very similar sounding answer to, or solution to, the trade situation — and that’s Donald Trump. He also says that, although he speaks with much more blunt language and says, and with few specifics, “Bad deals. Terrible deals. I’ll make them good deals.” So in that sense I hear whispers of that same sentiment. How is your take on that issue different than his?

Sanders: Well, if he thinks they’re bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you’re in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I’m not going to have American workers “competing” against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.

And more from Sanders at a different point in the interview:

So I think we need trade. But I think it should be based on fair trade policies. No, I don’t think it is appropriate for trade policies to say that you can move to a country where wages are abysmal, where there are no environmental regulations, where workers can’t form unions. That’s not the kind of trade agreement that I will support.

What this sounds like to me is no trade with poor countries. No offshoring or outsourcing to emerging economies. Only trade with advanced economies where wages are more comparable. Of course, it is trade and investment that will raise living standards and wages in countries such as Vietnam, as is currently happening in China and India. Free enterprise is the path out of poverty so wages aren’t “abysmal.”

Recall, though, that Sanders said he “personally” happens “not to be a great believer in the free enterprise system for many reasons.” Count me convinced! How would Sanders-onomics help the global poor? More foreign aid through wealth taxes on the US and Europe and Japan?

Published in Economics
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  1. MarciN Member

    James Pethokoukis: Sanders’ quote: Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no,

    This election year will go down as giving Google more search business than any election in recent history.

    I had no idea what this meant–“this country?”, meaning the United States?–so I looked it up. What Bernie is referring to are the conditions for migrant workers brought into Malaysia–not the United States–to work in the electronics equipment factories.

    In all fairness to Bernie Sanders, all he is saying is that we should use our buying power to improve conditions for workers in these countries. So an American company getting parts manufactured in a foreign country should insist on some basic minimums for workers there, such as there will be no child laborers.

    This is an old yet ongoing issue, and I’m on his side. We should take advantage of our business clout to make some demands. Believe me, the owners of these factories will comply if we make enough noise. It would be very easy for us to do this.

    • #1
  2. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.

    One poor country he’ll advocate  trade with will be Cuba, I’d bet. I don’t think he’d even argue with Raul about low wages. After all, the slaves are working for the common good, don’t you know.

    • #2
  3. Freesmith Inactive

    Yes, we should trade with poor countries. Our corporations should exploit the cheap labor in places like Vietnam and Malaysia to produce goods cheaper than they can be made in the United States.

    It’s a win-win scenario. The poor in the foreign countries who will be employed will have their standards of living raised and in time become fine, upstanding Malaysians and Vietnamese. The American entrepreneurs who lower their costs of production will invest their increased profits in similarly lucrative opportunities abroad, while building bigger houses with higher walls in the exclusive communities where they live. And a few lucky wordsmiths will land well-compensated positions at corporate-financed think tanks like AEI to shill for these arrangements to a gullible public.

    Of course, there are some folks who will lose out in this scenario, specifically those Americans whom Whitaker Chambers called “the plain men and women of the nation,” but for them we have this excellent advice:

    Rent a U-Haul.

    • #3
  4. Matt White Member
    Matt White

    He’s not really being hypocritical about it. Somebody pointed it out at NR a while back(I think it was Kevin Williamson).  Sanders is not an international socialist, but a national socialist.

    Ignore your initial reaction to that name.  It’s not a racial thing, but nationality. His is trying to appeal to the American poor and middle class, not the worldwide poor.

    Populism always requires a rhetorical enemy. There must be an “other”. Typically, socialists will focus on haves vs. have nots. They want to make allies among the poor across borders against the rich anywhere.

    When we think of national socialists, we think primarily of them making Jews their scapegoat, but the same idea can be used for foreigners. They targeted Jews because they were different and seen as more successful.

    The modern version isn’t just seeing a successful people as the cause of their trouble.  The Bernie appeal against trade is for people who see the value of their work being reduced or eliminated by foreign workers.  That’s where they get a form of nationalism. Yes, it’s a lot like the support for immigration restriction on the republican side.

    Combine that with the traditional socialism of blaming the rich and promising free stuff to get the bulk of  Sander’s support.

    • #4
  5. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda

    Great idea, Bernie.  The government shouldn’t stop at regulating every aspect of business in the U.S., we should also regulate businesses in other countries, too.

    • #5
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