For Release Friday, August 23, 2013
Speaking last month at Knox College Galesburg, Ill., President Obama began to try to refocus the American public on the economy. His attention to the need for competition in a global economy was welcome. Global trade is more than a national issue; it’s vital, as well, for healthy metro regions to be prepared to compete internationally.
The slow rebound from the recession and the even slower return to low unemployment levels continue to plague the country. Obama attributed the loss of jobs to new technology and, he said, “Global competition sent jobs overseas.” He outlined what’s needed to compete and said, “The countries that are passive in the face of the global economy will lose the competition for good jobs and high living standards.”
But central to the national debate on fixing the economy is the role of government. Where does the country set the rheostat between a totally free market economy and an activist role for the government in ensuring economic success? And this question is even more difficult as we face global competition for jobs with countries like China, which have industrial policies.
The Obama administration realizes that a large trade deficit and the flow of jobs overseas require an assertive policy. But is the public in agreement?
For years the American public has not seen global trade as in our interest – although polls show an uptick this year. (See Pew Research Center poll in 2010 here, and see a Gallup poll from February 2013 here.) One example: Since mid-2007, Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have had no fast- track trade authority, letting them negotiate international agreements needing only an up or down vote in Congress.