David Brooks' Ignorant Protectionism Strikes Again

Every time his column appears, David Brooks demonstrates that the U.S. economy still offers good-paying jobs for unskilled workers. His Sunday column (sorry, Times Select and therefore non-linkable) is yet another diatribe against Democratic politicians (e.g. Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey) who are opposed to trade and immigration policies that are designed to redistribute income from less-skilled workers to college educated workers and capital. Brooks does the usual routine of contrasting these backward looking nationalists with forward looking internationalists like Hillary Clinton.

Of course, if Times columnists were required to know what they were talking about, Mr. Brooks would know that the Hillary Clinton "internationalists" are actually strong proponents of protectionism, but only for the professionals who make up their base. Their trade agreements do little or nothing to subject doctors, lawyers, and other highly paid professionals to international competition. Rather, they think that only autoworkers, textile workers, and custodians should have to compete with low wage workers from the developing world. This protectionism costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year in higher prices for health care, legal fees, accounting fees, and all the other goods and services that require this professional labor as an input.

The nationalist/internationist dichotomy is useful rhetoric for promoting the "internationalist" position, but it has nothing to do with the reality. And someone with Mr. Brook's job really should know this.

--Dean Baker

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