• Free Trade Watch

      A headline in today's Wall Street Journal reads: "Obama Details Effort to Double Exports Over Five Years."

      George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux read that and offered his own translations:

      "Obama Details Effort to Increase Corporate Welfare Over Five Years."

      "Obama Details Five-year Plan to Increase American Taxpayers' Subsidization of Foreigners' Consumption of U.S. Products."

      That seems about right.

      Inexplicably, the Washington Post greets this news as evidence that Obama will push free trade, calling his plan, "an ambitious goal that may rekindle the battle over free-trade policy." What is their evidence?

      Obama also promised a fresh push on an issue that could prove divisive in the Democratic Party -- pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, Colombia and a group of Pacific countries -- as well as on the broader round of world trade talks in Doha, Qatar.

      That is certainly welcome news, if long overdue. But it's an empty gesture. With Congress controlled by Democrats, free trade agreements are dead in the water:

      "Moving forward with leftover Bush-negotiated free trade agreements is a nonstarter with many members of Congress," Rep. Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine), chairman of the House Trade Working Group, said in a written statement.

      All that's left of Obama's "free trade" push is export policy:

      Obama said in a speech, "in a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a short-term imperative."

      ... Obama's plan includes $2 billion in new export financing through the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. companies finance overseas sales.

      Why does it seem like the president's answer to every problem somehow involves at least a couple billion in spending? As Don Boudreaux's "translated" headlines above suggest, "boosting exports" through subsidies is an old and tired protectionist measure. It taxes Americans to benefit politically connected companies so they can sell cheaper goods to foreign consumers.

      That's an assault on free trade. Someone let the Post know.

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