- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 12, 2000

Free trade helps small businesses and consumers

Rep. Matt Salmon, in his Feb. 4 Op-Ed column, "Free trade takes a hit," points to several important arguments in support of open trade. While mentioning some of the large multinational companies that thrive from open trade, however, he neglected two major beneficiary groups: small businesses and consumers.

According to a recently released study by the Small Business Administration ("America's Small Businesses and International Trade," November 1999), small business in the United States clearly is benefiting from globalization. Though the public perception is that only the "big guys" win from trade, the report shows that very small companies those with fewer than 20 employees made up an astonishing 65 percent of all U.S. exporting companies in 1997. Small businesses account for 31 percent of total merchandise export sales.

Though no statistics are available for service exports, small business certainly plays a big role in that area, too. Small companies are the backbone of the successful economic ride the United States is enjoying.

Another group usually forgotten in the equation is consumers. The importance of open trade for consumers worldwide is hard to overstate. Besides the benefits of convenience and choices consumers might receive in the United States and other industrial countries, trade ensures the distribution of essential goods, such as food, fuel and many more products.

Consumers in industrial countries may take the availability of these products for granted, but in other parts of the world, it is a daily uncertainty.

Consumers also wage enormous influence economically as well as politically with their buying power. Companies in other countries trading with the United States, for example, are keenly aware that in today's world, having good products or services to sell to U.S. consumers isn't enough companies have to convince the public that they conform with ethical standards.

Also, consumers in countries that open themselves to international trade will find it easier to press for improvements in quality and safety standards if alternatives are presented through competition.

Open trade is not a panacea for the world's problems, but it does open a window for reform opportunities from both the inside and outside worlds.

BARBARA RIPPEL

Policy analyst

Consumer Alert

Washington

GOP should worry about front-loaded primaries

Come November, will Republicans be beating the drum of campaign reform? No, I don't mean campaign finance reform, but an overhaul of the ridiculously front-loaded primary schedule.

Because primary states continue to cut in front of each other, we'll know by mid-March who the presidential nominees will be. Then we'll have to endure some seven months of campaigning.

While the prospect of a virtually perpetual campaign may thrill pundits, pollsters and politicians, voters will tune out by the millions; Election Day turnout could fall below 1996's dismal record. Result: The party that does the best in bribing voters and busing them to the polls wins. That scenario obviously favors candidates such as Vice President Al Gore, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt.

Will campaign fatigue trump Clinton fatigue? Republicans should be worried.

MARC BEAUCHAMP

Falls Church

Column's headline condemns an entire generation

I agree with much of John Julian Vecchione's column ("An icon of a faithless generation," Op-Ed, Feb. 9). Unfortunately, an entire generation was criticized in the headline.

This is reminiscent of the Vietnam era of which Mr. Vecchione speaks. I remember well being approached by a member of the student press on campus and being asked to comment on the Christmas bombing of Hanoi.

When I replied that I thought it was an act of great political courage by President Richard Nixon, I was looked at as if I must be the stupidest person alive. I also remember well being insulted repeatedly by a stranger on a city bus because I wore my hair in the fashion of the day.

I never protested the war in Vietnam. Now, being older and wiser, I know there was much to protest. President Lyndon Johnson, from the World War II generation Mr. Vecchione reveres, sent many good men to their graves and to wheelchairs in a hopeless conflict because he didn't want to be the first U.S. president to lose a war.

Many of my generation are feckless and faithless, as you describe. Many more are good, honest, hard-working citizens. Remember us as well.

ALLAN HOFFMANN

McAllen, Texas

Conspiracy against sprawl? What a dead-end theory

Randal O'Toole's Feb. 9 commentary, "Smart growth at the federal trough," is misleading.

Even if we accept his main contention that a handful of nonpartisan transportation groups have received a paltry $6 million in financing to study sprawl his conclusion is ludicrous. The recent upsurge of interest in smart growth is hardly the product of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or any other federal agency; it is the product of a grass-roots movement.

Though sprawl apologists may not want to hear it, the truth is this: Americans are sick and tired of irresponsible, haphazard growth.

In 1998, voters approved 70 percent of a record 240 smart-growth ballot initiatives. In 1999, they approved 82 percent of such initiatives. In a recent American Institute of Architects-commissioned study of 351 state and local decision-makers, 78 percent identified providing livable communities as a crucial issue.

The EPA's recent track record shows that it can barely meet its regulatory duties much less engage in conspiratorial agenda setting. Nor would the EPA need to: The destructive effects of sprawl loss of green space, polluted air and water, fractured communities are obvious to anyone who cares to look out his car window.

DERON LOVAAS

Sprawl campaign representative

Sierra Club

Washington

The taxing problems with John McCainism

Dan Mitchell's Feb. 8 commentary, "Social Security: The real debt crisis," hit the nail on the head regarding both the political and policy failures of Herbert Hoover Republicanism, or should I say John McCainism?

The failure to cut taxes both pre-empts the best issue Republicans ever had and leaves money in Washington for the liberals to spend. The electoral result will mimic 1998 a mediocre showing at the polls because so many conservatives stayed home.

One would think that the comatose congressional Republican leadership would have gotten that wake-up call, but it's pretty hard to wake up when you're playing the sequel to "Night of the Living Dead." With regard to the current Republican plan to increase spending while doing virtually nothing on taxes, the zombielike leadership continues its clumsy progress toward the edge of the cliff.

Cutting the debt would be great, but the way to do it is to cut or restrain spending and sell government assets. Most Americans probably are unaware that 57 percent of the land in the 11 westernmost states and Alaska is owned by the federal government. This used to be called socialism.

Selling most of that land would raise hundreds of millions of dollars, if not a trillion or two. Meanwhile, the tax surplus could be returned back to the people who earned it.

Demagogic politicians such as Mr. McCain and President Clinton use polls because they don't have internal, philosophical belief systems. All they care about is getting elected. (Are you listening South Carolina?) Isn't eight years of this enough?

ROBERT BRANTLEY

Arlington

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