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Irresponsible, Baseless, Accusatory Political Rhetoric

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

You report that “No sooner has a new Congress arrived in Washington than the anti-China-trade rhetoric has started anew” (“The $6.50 Trade War,” Jan. 11).

Protectionists’ rhetoric is troubling – kindling, as it surely does, resentment in ordinary Americans whenever they hear elected officials such as Sen. Charles Schumer allege that, because of Chinese trade policies, “we lose wealth, we lose economic advantage, we lose jobs.”  How irresponsible is it for Leo Gerard, head of the United Steelworkers union – when accusing the Chinese of unfair trade practices – to publicly thunder that “American workers, communities and industry have every right to expect their government to take action.  It is long, long overdue”?  Was it really necessary for Sen. John Kerry, during the 2004 presidential campaign, to risk stirring up hatred by labeling corporate executives who outsourced to foreign countries “Benedict Arnold CEOs”?  And what dangers lurk in inflammatory headlines such as this one from September: “US lawmakers to target China, grill Geithner“?

“TARGET China”….  “GRILL Geithner….”  Oh dear.  Such language – although perhaps not meant to incite violence against the Chinese or against government officials publicly accused of being too soft on China – stoke irrational resentments and are too likely to nudge unstable fanatics to go on shooting rampages against American corporations who outsource to China, or even against American consumers who shop at Pier 1 Imports.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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