- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Working hard for the money

In “The jobs problem … or is it?” (Commentary, Sunday), Paul Craig Roberts claims that the case for free trade does not apply when factors of production are as mobile as goods. He’s wrong.

Free trade is beneficial whenever comparative advantage exists. Comparative advantage exists whenever one individual can produce something with market value at a lower cost than someone else can. Further, someone who has a comparative advantage at producing, say, computer software, necessarily has a comparative disadvantage at producing other things.

Contrary to Mr. Roberts’ suggestion, the principle of comparative advantage explains with no less power the specialization and trade that take place in a single town than it explains the specialization and trade that take place internationally. Just as this principle is not weakened by the easy mobility of resources within a single town, nothing about greater international mobility of resources renders this bedrock principle of economics inapplicable to international trade. The case for free trade is in no way, shape or form weakened by the increased international mobility of factors of production.

DONALD J. BOUDREAUX

Chairman

Department of Economics

George Mason University

Fairfax

I recently met a quite impressive man: perhaps in his mid-50s, gentlemanly, with graying hair, well-spoken and polite. He was the type of man one would expect to encounter in a corporation boardroom or upper-level management, but the most memorable thing about him was that he checked out my order at the local supermarket.

Banging on a cash register is honest and noble labor, and one may assume that he was very happy to do so — or to qualify for any sort of employment at his age.

In the current so-called “jobless” recovery — amid the transfer of both skilled and unskilled jobs overseas — our country may be heading down a road from which there is no return.

The jobs that are opening today do not compare to those that were lost. They do not pay middle-class wages and can just as easily be filled by recent legal or illegal immigrants.

Americans are the most creative people in the world: In the last half of the 20th century, nearly all the great advances in technology and medicine were created in this country. For the sake of our country’s future, research and development facilities should be guarded conscientiously and expanded — not exported.

In search of a better bottom line, it has become acceptable business routine to throw one’s most experienced and talented workers on the ash heap and export as many jobs overseas as possible.

This may appear to be a perfect solution to today’s economic dilemma, but what happens tomorrow, when those same American corporations try to sell their foreign-made products in a much less affluent society?

Welcome to the banana republic of the United States of America.

THOMAS J. MCLOUGHLIN

Chicago

And the state of the union is … ?

As I watched the State of the Union address, I became more and more angry with the way this country is headed.

The address was vague, touting semiaccomplishments and proposals that were vague. As a middle-class American, I have seen my health insurance premiums increase between 15 percent and 18 percent each year for the past three years.

I work for the state of California, not a small business. My share of the premium has increased to the point that my $300 in so-called federal tax savings does not cover my portion of the increases. Therefore, I am unsure of who President Bush is saying has been able to put more money into the economy.

My savings have gone into the pockets of health care companies. As premiums continue to increase, I continue paying a larger portion out of pocket. Mr. Bush’s initiative for small business sounds good but does not help the millions who work for larger businesses. In addition, in a country founded on religious freedom, with a Constitution that promises equality, he has slapped singles and homosexuals in the face. Single people have not benefited from these tax decreases.Homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else. Homosexuals are treated differently.

I supported and continue to support the efforts in Iraq, but where was Mr. Bush’s stance for continuing to try to locate Osama bin Laden? It is time for the people of this country to wake up and see that the path laid out before them is rocky, curvy and full of potholes. Mr. Bush must go so this path can be repaved.

KENNETH RAY MARTIN

Palm Springs, Calif.

I like President Bush. I’ll probably vote for him in November. However, his State of the Union speech was probably the least inspiring speech I have heard in a long time. Mr. Bush failed to offer any real vision for the future. What he gave us instead was a shopping list of election-year gimmicks, most of which are simply wasteful spending; some are even harmful.

One proposal I especially hate is the one about drug testing our children in school. I would much rather teach our children about our nation’s history and government, as well as our civil rights. Instead, we are teaching our children to shut up and submit to being drug tested, X-rayed, videotaped and searched without any kind of warrant or probable cause. When are we going to teach our children about the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution?

Also, why didn’t Mr. Bush discuss the space program in his speech? If he was serious about his bold initiative to send humans to the Moon and on to Mars, why didn’t he fight for it? It’s true that polls show most Americans are ambivalent about space exploration.

This is where leadership is necessary and is so sorely lacking from our chief executive. I give Mr. Bush a D- for that speech.

MICHAEL K. MAGNER

Virginia Beach

One of my daughters is 25 years old — she has no college education and works very hard to make ends meet. Of the $19,424 she earned last year, $1,706 was paid in federal taxes, $1,200 was paid in Social Security taxes, $381 was paid in Medicare taxes. Fortunately, Texas has no state personal income tax — yet. To make it easy to understand, she paid a total of $3,287 in taxes. High taxes are fated for the majority of low-salaried American workers.

President Bush, how do you justify our “stronger economy” treating millions of hardworking Americans in this manner while providing more tax breaks for the wealthy? Most workers cannot survive under the current administration’s earnings and tax structure. I suppose my daughter is lucky to have a job, because 11 million Americans are unemployed.

If this is your idea of a stronger economy, Americans should be fearful to hear your definition of a weak economy. If more job support and tax relief cannot be provided to all Americans who want to work, perhaps you should step down from the presidency and let someone else try it.

PETER STERN

Driftwood, Texas


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