- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

What about that trade deficit?

The Feb. 9 editorial “Disappointing news on jobs” is yet more evidence that neither the Bush administration nor this newspaper understand what is occurring in the U.S. economy. Any discussion of American jobs must include an assessment of international trade data, and yet that assessment is glaringly absent.

Most of the commentators appearing in your pages are proponents of free trade, and most describe America as protectionist. They argue that the American consumer is paying too much for everything from sugar to textiles to steel because other countries can deliver those products cheaper than we can if only we would remove our tariffs. They never discuss the high tariffs other countries impose on American goods and seldom mention our enormous trade deficit.

Now comes the outcry that the news on jobs is “disappointing.” What did these “free-for-all” traders expect? When we open our markets to the world without the world opening its markets to us, American jobs simply disappear. The U.S. trade deficit for goods and services stands at $489.4 billion for 2003. That represents 4.89 million American jobs using the formula that there are 10,000 jobs for every $1 billion of trade. We probably don’t have 4.89 million employable workers to fill those jobs, but we do have 3 million.

What has changed the landscape of the American economy is the entry of China as our largest trading partner. We imported $114 billion more than we exported to China in the first 11 months of 2003. Why isn’t this newspaper asking questions about this enormous imbalance and its effect on the U.S. job market?

After China, our second-largest trade deficit is with Japan at $60 billion, but Japan is a large investor in the American economy. Japan is building many of its automobiles in the United States and employing American workers. In fact, certain Honda models have a higher percentage of American content than many of the domestic Big Three automakers (Ford Motor Co., General MotorsCorp.andDaimler-Chrysler Corp) offerings.

American companies are prospering under this enormous trade deficit because they recognized long ago that keeping their manufacturing plants in the United States was foolish when there were Chinese workers hungry for jobs at 80 cents an hour. Also, because China doesn’t have the equivalent of our Occupational Safety and Health Administration or Environmental Protection Agency, the savings are simply too great to pass up. I don’t blame American manufacturers for relocating to China; after all, in a capitalist economy, they are obliged to earn as much money as possible for their shareholders. The consequence, however, is that high-paying American jobs are lost, probably forever.

As strong as our economy is, we cannot expect it to absorb a trade deficit of $489.4 billion without some fallout, which, in this case, is jobs. I believe in free trade, but why can’t our trading partners step up and buy more American products? And why isn’t more being said by the government and this newspaper about what’s really going on?

RICHARD W. RESSLER

North Olmsted, Ohio

Vaccination a necessary risk

I read with dismay the commentary by Michelle Malkin in which she states her reasons for refusing to allow her physician to give her son the hepatitis B vaccine (“Vaccination bullies,” Feb. 7). Though her intentions and message (“be informed”) are laudable, what she demonstrated is that she is not capable of making an informed decision on this subject.

One of Mrs. Malkin’s rationales for refusing the hepatitis B vaccine involves the viral mode of transmission: sexual contact or using contaminated needles during IV drug use. Though it is true that her baby is not at risk by these modes of transmission, does she intend to prevent her son from ever having sexual relations? More than 1 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and up to 5 percent of the world’s population is infected, many without knowing it. Her son may be safe now, but once he becomes sexually active, he will be at risk if he ever has sex with an infected individual. If a vaccine for HIV were available, would she also refuse to have her son vaccinated on the grounds that he is not currently at risk?

Mrs. Malkin may not be aware that blood transfusions, travel abroad and tattooing also carry a risk of HBV transmission. Likewise, transmission can occur where you would least expect it — in a clinical setting. A recent issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented several examples of individuals who had been infected with HBV during visits to their doctors’ offices because of contaminated syringes and needles. In addition, 30 percent to 40 percent of all cases of acute HBV infection in the United States are not associated with an identifiable risk factor.

It is clear that Mrs. Malkin and her husband are trying to make decisions that are in their son’s best interests. However, it appears that she is reacting to her physician’s “bullying” and inability to make a convincing argument rather than making an informed decision. In denying her son the hepatitis B vaccine, she is not protecting her son, she is instead exposing him to unnecessary risk. It is people like her and her husband who need to be bullied by their physicians to protect children who cannot make the decision for themselves.

THOMAS HILL

Professor,

School of Medicine & Health Sciences

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, N.D.

A dangerous rationale in Pakistan

In your editorial on nuclear proliferation and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (“A bombshell for Musharraf,” Sunday), you say that the political reality is that, for the time being, a stable government led by Gen. Musharraf is in America’s interests. This is a very old argument when it comes to Pakistani military governments. American financial and military aid has historically “stabilized” military dictatorships in Pakistan despite their support for terrorism, nuclear proliferation and violent means to resolve conflicts.

It is obvious that the pardon of Abdul Qadeer Khan by Gen. Musharaff is a cover-up and that the military leaders continue to blow sand in the international community’s eyes. Even if enabling nuclear proliferation to Libya and Iran can be considered as the acts of an individual, the military clearly was responsible for its spread to North Korea. It was a simple exchange of Pakistani nuclear technology for North Korean missiles.

Pakistani military leaders regularly have overthrown elected governments and nurtured Islamists and terrorist groups. ISI, the intelligence wing, created the Taliban in Afghanistan and funded terrorist groups in Kashmir. The military has initiated several wars with India — most recently at Kargil in 1999 — and it carried out a massacre of more than a million people in Bangladesh in 1971. Now it appears that it also spread weapons of mass destruction to the most dangerous countries of the world. The American government’s response was subdued because the stability of the military government was considered to be in the interest of the United States.

Your editors have got it all wrong. The military is already the most powerful institution in Pakistan, and all perceived threats to its stability are hogwash. It is time to stand up to Gen. Musharraf just as we did on the day after September 11 and insist that he eradicate support for terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

AMIT GOYAL

Sammamish, Wash.

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