Report: Congress Knew Opening Trade With China Would Hurt American Workers

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The U.S. Capitol: Home to plenty of good decisions, and plenty of bad ones. | Getty Images

In 2000, they either didn’t appreciate how much it would hurt, or didn’t care. Either is a bad look.

Political polls are being treated with a lot more skepticism these days because, on the whole, they appear to be missing on their predictions more than they should. Quite famously, almost none of the polls saw Donald Trump winning the presidential election in 2016. The polling consensus expected House Democrats to expand their majority in 2020. That didn’t happen. Polls on average had Joe Biden beating Trump in Wisconsin by 10 points in this month’s presidential vote. Biden won, but it was a lot closer than that. The same thing basically happened in Michigan.

You know what poll is consistent, though? The one about congressional job approval: Everybody, all the time, thinks Congress stinks.

We tend to like our own representatives and senators, but not the institutions in which they serve. We just typically don’t trust these people on the whole. And there are approximately 1 million ways to explain why we, don’t. Is it the naked selfdealing? The rank hypocrisy? The fact that a lot of them are millionaires, and all of them are far wealthier than the average American?

Well here’s another reason to throw on the pile: Congress in 2000 knew that granting China permanent normalized trade relations (PNTR) with the United States would savage the American manufacturing sector and, by association, millions of American workers.

They did it anyway.

According to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “U.S. legislators appear to have had accurate information on the China Shock, but did not place substantial weight on its adverse
consequences.” Reporter Lydia DePillis spells it out:

So, just for kicks, and because our political leaders are the same leaders who have been around now for decades, let’s see how they voted on PNTR.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

Yes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

No.

President-elect Joe Biden (D):

Yes.

Meanwhile, the business groups that for decades have made gobs of money selling imported Chinese goods to American consumers are currently calling on the president-elect to remove the tariffs placed on Chinese imports when he enters office. They argue it would be some kind of goodwill measure toward the Chinese government before Biden picks up the negotiations of the Trump administration’s incomplete China trade deal.

As was voting for PNTR, this would be a mistake. Don’t make it, Mr. President-elect!