The bipartisan consensus on trade policy has extended across Democratic and Republican administrations for two decades, providing steady reminders of the reality that when Wall Street calls politicians of both parties answer. Trade debates have made coalition partners of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and Tom Daschle, Barack Obama and Paul Ryan.
Multinational corporations and their CEOs are agreed on the appeal of free-trade agreements that allow businesses to move their operations from country to country in an endless race to the bottom. And that’s good enough for most Republicans and too many Democrats.
Unfortunately, that race to the bottom has not benefitted workers, farmers, the environment or democracy in the United States or the vast majority of its trading partners. Indeed, the trade deals that the United States has entered into since the North American Free Trade Agreement have coincided with the shuttering of tens of thousands of American factories, the downsizing and destruction of key industries and the quantifiable loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
Now, the US workers are losing something else: the chance to make the uniforms for our Olympic athletes.
It turns out that the Ralph Lauren–designed uniforms to be worn by US Olympic team members during the opening ceremonies of the summer games in London will be made in China.
There’s nothing wrong with fair trade. There’s nothing wrong with reasonable schemes for importing and exporting goods from other countries, including China. But there comes a point when trade policies go to such extremes that they become ridiculous. And the evidence of the damage they are doing not just to the US economy but to the nation’s sense of self becomes overwhelming.
The news that the US Olympic uniforms are being made outside the United States, suggests Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, ought to inspire a serious re-examination of trade policies gone horribly awry.
“The Olympics are a time when Americans take great pride in our nation’s top athletes as they strive for gold,” says Sanders. “At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, there is no reason why US Olympic uniforms are not being manufactured in the US. This action on the part of the US Olympic Committee is symbolic of a disastrous trade policy which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and must be changed.”