All posts by Greg Autry

State of the Union – A recipe for disaster

In tonight’s State of the Union address, our Offshorer-in-Chief, announced a plan custom made to destroy jobs. By combining an ill advised increase in the minimum wage with an utterly blind commitment to two additional “free trade” pacts President Obama is creating a perfect storm of structural unemployment.

The inverse relationship between wages and the availability of jobs is one of the most fundamental concepts in economics. – in fact, I taught it just last night at Chapman University. Employer demand labor, like demand for any commodity, obviously goes down when the price goes up. Further, the supply of workers increases with higher wages as non-workers in various categories (stay at home moms for instance, or students) choose to enter the work force to grab the new higher wage.

Consequently, there are very few economists (whose paychecks don’t come from the administration) who would dispute that wage floors kill jobs. Now, in a robust economy the employer’s burden is offset by strong market demand for their products and services. In those good days, liberals have a foot to stand on when they sing the praises of helping the working poor through wage mandates. In the middle, of a deep, dark employment abyss raising the cost of labor in hopes of helping the poor is simply insanity! And make no mistake, despite the President’s hand waving, we are still very much in that abyss.

The real measure of those who can’t find adequate work is at least twice the government’s fantasy unemployment number. Consider the chart below from the folks at Shadow Government Statistics who have added back in the long-term and short-term discouraged workers that the government wants to bury as well as those who are stuck in part time jobs but want full time. OMG! Not only is that blue line above 20%, but unlike the number we get from the job each every month, this very real situation for millions of struggling Americans is getting WORSE.


Now, I don’t want to see any American trying to raise a family on minimum wage. Those jobs should be going to teenagers, eager to cut their teeth and learn responsibility. But the sad reality is that the victim of the President’s higher minimum wage who get laid off from Joe’s Burgerstand are more likely to be a 30 year-old former assembly worker or a 55 year old factory foreman. These folks shouldn’t have lost their jobs in the first place and the primary cause of their burger flipping nightmare has been a two decade long, bipartisan effort to export America’s manufacturing capacity, technology and capital to China. We’ve lost not just millions of jobs, but more than 2% of our GDP growth every year – just to China.

Trade  is a great thing for consumers and exporters for nations that play it smart and understand the game is hardball. Countries like South Korea and Germany have been able to power right through the Great Recession and even face down a mercantilist China. Even their neighbors in Asia and Europe are feeling the pain of this. Ask Taipei or Rome what they think about the way Seoul and Berlin conduct their business and you will get an earful. We need to emulate that aggressive and successful approach, but we don’t do that. America prances into the world series of trade wearing shorts and swinging a badminton racket at 100mph fastballs. Our goal always seems to be some fuzzy headed idea like engaging our trading partner not beating them fair and square. Frankly, while it sounds good, that is NOT how a free market actual works. Most of the time real capitalism is a brutally competitive arena with actual winners and very real losers. Apple Computer didn’t get where it is today by trying to find a “win/win” with Dell or HP. Steve Jobs was out to kill and the results of that are pitilessly obvious as Dell tries to crawl under a private equity rock in hopes of staying alive. This ruthless process of creative destruction is how the market improves efficiency and increases the standards of living – for the survivors.

So while we do want to expand trade with our friends in Asia and in Europe, the last thing we should be doing is signing up for another naïve American led trade pact full of wishy-washy objectives with the open-ended specifics left to negotiators who already know they are going to be working as “consultants” for our “trading partner” as soon as they roll out of public service.

The worst possible jobs program I could imagine is a higher-minimum wage combined with more “free trade.” On the other hand, to quote my buddy, Peter Navarro, “The best jobs program is trade reform with China.” Do that and you won’t have to worry about the minimum wage.


Greg Autry serves as Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance, Economist with the Coalition for a Prosperous America and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action. He teaches Macroeconomics at the Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University and blogs regularly at:  and on the Huffington Post.

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Understood by No One and Yet Believed by Everyone

IsaacAsimovThe late Grand Master of Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov was the Renaissance Man of the last century and he penned more than 500 books on nearly every subject from biochemistry to the Bible. He was, in short, an astute observer of the universe from nuclear physics to the human condition.

I was recently re-reading Asimov’s seminal “Foundation Series” and came across a little gem at the start of Prelude to Foundation where the Emperor Cleon I speaks with his vizier, Demerzel, about how to hold together the decaying Galactic Empire by exploiting a futuristic social forecasting model. Reading the passage again, it is clear Asimov’s fictional mathematician, Hari Seldon, isn’t the only one predicting the future.

We now live in an age where politicians and business leaders defend Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage Theory and Keynes’ Multiplier Model with religious fanaticism. However, they do not really understand the context behind the math and therefore they completely fail to account for the very serious limitations and potentially fatal assumptions that support these extremely simplified economic models.

Meanwhile, the highly pedigreed economists and business professors whose job it is to keep the American public bamboozled should know and probably do know that applying such simple models in a highly complex and unpredictable real world is extremely risky. However, lacking either Seldon’s brilliance or integrity, they aspire to prestigious appointments and they love being fawned upon whenever they repeat that magic incantation that quells a restless populace: we will spend our way back to prosperity.

It’s really easy to imagine the following conversation happening in the White House today.

[Cleon I:]”But they believe in such things. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether the forecast of the future is true or not. If a mathematician should predict a long and happy reign for me, a time of peace and prosperity for the Empire– Eh, would that not be well?”

[Demerzel:] “It would be pleasant to hear, certainly, but what would it accomplish, Sire?”

“But surely if people believe this, they would act on that belief. Many a prophecy, by the mere force of its being believed, is transmuted to fact. These are ‘self-fulfilling prophecies.’ Indeed, now that I think of it, it was you who once explained this to me.”

Demerzel said, “I believe I did, Sire.” His eyes were watching the Emperor carefully, as though to see how far he might go on his own. “Still, if that be so, one could have any person make the prophecy.”

“Not all persons would be equally believed, Demerzel. A mathematician, however, who could back his prophecy with mathematical formulas and terminology, might be understood by no one and yet believed by everyone

Demerzel said, “As usual, Sire, you make good sense. We live in troubled times and it would be worthwhile to calm them in a way that would require neither money nor military effort–which, in recent history, have done little good and much harm.

[emphasis added]

Mr. Bernanke, you are no Hari Seldon.

Greg Autry serves as Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance, Economist with the Coalition for a Prosperous America and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action. He blogs regularly at:  and on the Huffington Post.

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WalMart Bends

Following Apple’s plan to move some production to the U.S.A., Walmart announces they will buy more Made in USA. It’s not enough, but it is enough to make it clear that we are winning the battle for the hearts and minds of America and they know it. What they haven’t figured out yet is that the problem is deeper than just products. Its a fundamental ethical dilemma and they can’t go just part way toward reform.

Here’s a really funny and insightful photo of just what’s wrong the China – WalMart situation. This is a photo I took of a WalMart poster showing the managers at their store in Kunming, Yunnan Provence. “Servant Leadership” is not a translation error. It means exactly what it says. You can really tell when you see all the employees lined up at attention in the mornings while the managers yell at them like drill sergeants. That’s not the economy or society we want to be adapting our business to. And it sure as heck isn’t the one we want running the world.

WALMART-Servants - smWe must keep pushing this, because you can either be a “Friend of China” or an American and until the Communist Party is gone, you simply cannot be both.


Greg Autry serves as Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance, Economist with the Coalition for a Prosperous America and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action. He blogs regularly at:  and on the Huffington Post.

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A Call for Democracy in China and Excuses be Damned!

A video I prepared for presentation at the  Forum on the Pending Collapse of the Chinese Communist Party, Taiwan Merchants Association, Flushing NY, 2012.


I take on the usual excuses that China apologist offer in support of the appalling regime in Beijing. These include the usual tripe like Jackie Chan’s assertion that “Chinese people must be controlled” or the nonsense that “The Communist Leadership has lifted millions out of poverty” (where it kept them for more than two unnecessary generations) and “China is a victim of Western Imperialism.” Enough of all that BS. China is no magically different place, unable to emulate what Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea have done politically – after all it has copied their economic plans pretty darn well.

Sorry about the video quality and my reading from notes, I got the request to speak on short notice and had to film it in my cabin with an iPhone (Hey, Apple CEO: Tim Cook you are supporting this crooked regime with your insanely great products and depriving a Democratic and Free America of  badly needed middle class jobs and tax revenues in order to further enrich a very thin slice of brilliant engineers and the investor class. I love brilliant engineers and investors, but I don’t want to live in a Chinese-type plutocracy.)

Greg talk


What the VAT!?


I was working on an updated  map of nations that use a Value Added Tax (VAT) for the Coalition for a Prosperous America and thought I’d share it. Nations in RED have a VAT. Nations in BLUE don’t.

Basically, the VAT is a national sales tax on products sold, at various levels in the value chain. It varies from country to county in actual rate and implementation and it is pretty complex to really figure out who has one and who does not. Mostly it is just the US, big oil producers in the Middle East (Places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria don’t make much of their own consumer goods and keeping their citizens docile depends on cheap imported stuff), island tax havens like the Caymans, and some semi-lawless places like Western Sahara, Angola and Burma. Odd bedfellows we have no?

Why does this matter?

Well it matters, because most countries tax U.S. products (and other imports) coming in with their VAT and then EXEMPT or REBATE taxes on their exports. (You may have experienced this as a consumer in some countries where you can collect your receipts and get money back as you exit the country.) Well managed, by a smart country, the VAT can act as both a tariff and a subsidy.

In China’s case that’s a 17%+ (more with local and provincial taxes) whack on U.S. made products. Since, as you can see from the map, everyone in the WTO is playing this game, nobody is going to back up American complaints about this process. While most academic free traders bristle at tariffs, they seem to hardly blink an eye at the VAT scam.

That is one of the very good reasons we should consider replacing our national income tax with a VAT. A tax is a disincentive for the activity it taxes and an income tax, particularly the corporate one, is essentially a distinctive for production. A Chinese style VAT is a disincentive for importation. If we have to disincentive something, I’d rather it be consumption than production. Despite what most economists and our government seem to believe, no nation has ever consumed its way to prosperity!

So, if we can’t beat ’em, we should join ’em. Let taxes be laid on imported Chinese junk and not be firms doing business in America or the wages American workers earn. Taxing imports is how the U.S. raised almost all our federal revenue during the first 150 years of our history and if we hide it in VAT, like all most of our “trading partners”, apparently nobody will notice or complain. (Actually, when America finally gets wise, I’m sure it will become a serious negotiating point, but that is another story.)

Greg Autry serves Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action. He blogs regularly at:  

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Still Commies After All These Years – II

photo credit: Greg Autry


Many American consumers, business people and politicians are possessed of the whimsical notion that China long ago abandoned Communism for the benefits of liberal capitalism and is pursuing a “progressive” political path of some sort. While, I have previously addressed this, the recent spectacle of the 18th Communist Party Congress seems to call for revisiting it. The Congress was, of course, bathed in Marxist symbolism: everything in red and the hammer and sickle logo on everything from nametags to portfolios.

As action invariably reflects symbolism, the Congress was accompanied by increased media censorship. Ironically, even the phrase “18th Party Congress” was stricken from Internet searches during the event. There was also an exceptionally repressive crackdown on dissidents, many of whom will be jailed for years for suggesting political reforms.

Marxist-Leninist Communism has two important components. One is state control over productive resources and the other is a bizarre and opaque political system. My previous post made the case that , despite the dynamism at the lowest levels, China’s economy remains a centrally controlled, socialism in sheep’s clothing. Watching the news flow out of the Congress is all that is required to see that China’s political structure with its all important Politburo Standing Committee and a military that reports to the party – not the civilian leadership – is 100% pure communist.

As to whether China is “progressing” away from Communism, I’d refer you to the NEW oath that all lawyers in China have been required to take, whereby they pledge allegiance not to the truth or judiciary fairness, but rather to the Communist Party and “the cause of socialism.”:

I swear to faithfully fulfill the sacred mission of legal workers in socialism with Chinese characteristics. I swear my loyalty to the motherland, to the people, to uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system, and to protect the dignity of the Constitution and laws. – from The NY Times.

Bob Hall recently pointed out this invaluable snippet of conversation between Mo Xiusong, Vice Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Dr. Clark Bowers, member of a U.S. delegation to China:

  • Clark Bowers: Is the long-term goal of the Communist Party of China still world Communism?
  • Mo Xiusong: Yes, of course, that is the reason we exist.  However, the road to Communism may take well over a hundred years and the transition doesn’t have to be violent.
  • Clark Bowers: Is it possible to reach your goal of world Communism while any of the bourgeois or their economic environment still exist?
  • Mo Xiusong: No, that would be against the laws of science.
  • Clark Bowers: As part of your reform, do you even desire to ever allow for anti-Socialist political parties?
  • Mo Xiusong: No, that would be unconstitutional.
  • Clark Bowers: Do you have any desire to change this part of the constitution?
  • Mo Xiusong: No, the people wouldn’t support it.
  • Clark Bowers: Who speaks for the people of China?
  • Mo Xiusong: The Communist Party of China acts on behalf of the workers of China.  We are their mind.
  • Mo Xiusong continues: The historical miscalculations of Gorbachev led to an unbridled chaos that tore the social fabric of the USSR apart.  We opposed a similar destabilization in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and history has vindicated our leadership by the economic and political stability that has followed.

Bob says we can find this charmer in Beating the Unbeatable Foe, by Frederick Schwarz, M.D., (408 – 410)


If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.


Greg Autry serves Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance and is co-author (with Peter Navarro) of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – a Global Call to Action. He blogs regularly on the Huffington Post.

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Canada: Democracy with Chinese Characteristics?

I traveled to Ottawa this weekend to attend the Free Thinking Film Festival. I had been invited to speak after a screening of Death by China, a film directed by Peter Navarro and based on my book with him. The timing was prescient as China is a topic of great debate in Canada these days with two major issues:

1.The attempted purchase of Canadian Oil firm, Nexen, by the Chinese state exploration company, CNOOC.

2. The adoption of a new Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) that would grant Chinese firms a variety of special privileges in Canadian markets in exchange for promises of fairer treatment of Canadian companies struggling in totalitarian China.

The festival crowd was a diverse, intelligent and informed group of all ages, ethnicities and politics. The thing they had in common was a love of liberty and support for human dignity. Not one of them appeared to support either of these insane ideas. In fact, it appears that almost no Canadian, outside of those who will directly benefit, supports them. A recent poll shows Canadians against the CNOOC-Nexen takeover and a whopping 78% opposing the transfer of natural resources to a foreign government.

However, on the subject of China, the government of Stephen Harper has grown uniquely out of sync with public opinion. The conservative Prime Minister gained my admiration and that of human rights advocates world-wide with his bold decision to personally boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony (That celebration of totalitarian state capitalism was preceded by a wave of Chinese hacking into IOC, the Montreal based World Anti-Doping Agency and several national Olympic committees that probably include Canada.).

After that good start, Canada’s China policy went downhill faster than Lindsey Vonn, culminating in the PM’s ill-conceived February meeting with the infamous party boss of Chongqing, Bo Xilai. While human rights advocates publicly warned Mr. Harper to avoid this scandal-plagued thug, the ignominious meeting actually took place just as Wang Lijun, Bo’s top cop, fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in fear for his life. While Harper was breaking bread with Bo, Wang was spilling his guts on the murder of UK businessman, Neil Heywood by Bo’s jet-setting wife. It appears that Wang also detailed a horrific organ harvesting and body selling business as well.

Mr. Harper now seems peculiarly eager to complete the Chinese oil patch buyout and trade agreement through a secretive process without legislative debate, in-spite of vocal public opposition. This is a political process more fitting of the cadres in Zhongnanhai (commie party HQ) than parliamentarians in Ottawa.

I’m left to speculate on the cause of Harper’s about-face, which mirrors that of several recent U.S. presidents. I would like to imagine that fault lies not with the PM, but with a poor choice in China advisors (the ones who set him up with Bo). As is the case in the U.S., a distressing number of Canadian officials move between government service and lucrative work with China, Inc. or Western firms that do its bidding. It’s become very obvious to anyone working in a Western government that the best public retirement plan is to join Henry Kissinger as a “friend of China” (LOL) and at very least to never offend the sensitive Communist Party. Perhaps the Prime Minister changed advisors or a previously credible staff has been co-opted by the Chinese via the usual tactics of buyout or blackmail. Or, maybe they caved to constant pressure from the North American corporate executives and business consultants who serve as China’s proxies. Or, maybe Harper is surrounded with “useful idiots” to use the label from the communist lexicon for Westerners who actually believe in Beijing’s propaganda about progress, harmony and prosperity.

Another lesson in governance the Chinese have offered Canada is that pushing through unpopular decisions requires tight media control. There was a lot of conversation at the festival about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) using its subsidized pulpit to manipulate radio and TV content for political ends. I might have marked such criticism of a seemingly revered institution as mere conspiracy theory if I had not personally encountered a disturbingly Orwellian taste of it.

I was scheduled for a November 2nd radio interview on “Ottawa Morning” to discuss China. As is typical, I got a call in advance from a production staffer to go over the show and the issues I’d like to discuss. As soon as it became obvious that I was cynical about China and planned to talk about the ethics of the agreement, the staffer decided to change the format of the interview. She suggested bringing in a pro-china “business consultant” to “balance” the perspective as a debate. Though, the pro-China lobby gets the bulk of Western media coverage, I was happy to make it more interesting for the audience and agreed.

Shortly after, I got another call and a saccharine email, pronouncing that my ethical angle would be “matching apples and oranges” with the business consultant that had been added to my originally scheduled interview and therefore (in the interest of “balance” I presume) my anti-China perspective was being dropped. Essentially, it seems, the CBC wanted a conversation full of facts and figures without a complicating discussion of human rights, the environment, and the legitimacy of the government on the other end of the deal.

I was prepared to discuss the horrid technical details of FIPA, which proposes to remedy Chinese trade abuse through further Canadian concessions. Concessions that place Chinese firms in a legal position superior to Canadian ones and violate the rights of many Canadian stakeholders, including the Provinces and First Nations (native tribes). What I was not willing to do was to hide the nature of the despots the deal was being made with.

The CBC staffer even suggested we compare the U.S.-Canadian NAFTA to FIPA, an agreement made with a government that ignores the fundamental rights guaranteed under its own constitution (articles 32-41 assure voting rights, free speech, religious freedom, etc.). The fact that only a useful idiot would sign a trade agreement with those who show no respect for the rule of law cannot be irrelevant to a discussion of that agreement’s value.

This maneuver quite surprised me as I had expected a Canadian government media outlet to have a liberal bent that would welcome such a conversation. It turns out that liberal nature just doesn’t apply to China. Adding insult to the process was the peculiar email plea, “I hope that’s ok with you.” Meaning, I supposed, “I hope you don’t mind having your time wasted and your perspective censored.” Sure, what pundit wouldn’t be good with that?

I do a lot of radio and TV, often with those who hold contrary opinions, but I have NEVER been treated like this. Then again, I’ve never been on a state propaganda network. I can only guess about motives, but my cynical mind suggests that facing a threat of privatization under the conservative government, CBC finds it prudent to kowtow to corporate Canada and aid the transfer Canadian resources to the Boys from Beijing. If they want to prove I’m wrong about this, then I dare CBC to put me on the air to talk about China and Canada.


p.s. The Huffington Post declined to run this piece since it criticized the CBC. They would have been happy to run the first part attacking the Conservative government. If you want truthful news about China, you’ll need to learn Mandarin so you can watch NDTV.


Greg Autry serves as Senior Economist with the American Jobs Alliance and is the co-author of the book Death by China. He also served as a producer on the Death by China documentary film  directed by Peter Navarro and narrated by Martin Sheen.

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Films expose life and death in China

Reposted from my piece in the Ottawa Sun

Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do nothing, but rather by those who watch them and do nothing.” This weekend’s Free Thinking Film Festival gives us an opportunity to consider those words.

The festival features Kean Wong’s film Free China (directed by Michael Perlman) as well as Death by China (directed by my co-author, Peter Navarro). At first glance, one film appears to be a very personal insight into the value of freedom and the other a technical documentary on trade policy gone bad. However, at their core, both films are essays on the outcome of conceding power to an unethical regime.

Death by China exposes the insanity of a “free trade” regime that while promising an El Dorado of future market access has actually delivered 30 years of ever-growing trade imbalances, plant closures, intractable unemployment and mounting debt. One must either conclude that something fishy is going on with this relationship, or accept the premise that a centrally planned economy dominated by huge state-owned enterprises offers a superior economic model.

The fishy thing turns out to be the short-term profits used to bait Western CEOs into outsourcing their production to a nation where the people and the environment can be pillaged at will. Enriching a dictatorship at the long-term expense of your firm and your nation just happens to be the cost of increasing this year’s bonus. That would be bad enough if our lost manufacturing capacity wasn’t also supporting a military confrontation with China’s peaceful neighbours and an unchecked nuclear arsenal pointed at America.

Free China’s Jennifer Zeng is not only jailed and beaten, but compelled by the brutal “One Child” policy to abort her child. When a women is forcibly denied the right to reproduce, jailed for her religion, and tortured by fascist thugs you would think the response of the American and Canadian governments would be something other than eagerness to hand over further assets, capital, technology and jobs to her persecutors. When this tragedy is scaled up to 400 million coerced abortions, millions of political jailings, and the uncountable executions that feed a ghoulish organ-harvesting business, we are left to wonder at the culpability of our leadership. If they are not completely devoid of conscience, just what sort of sleep aids do Messrs. Harper and Obama employ after a day’s kissing up to Hu Jintao or Xi Jinping?

Every North American worker that surrenders their job and their dreams to unscrupulous Chinese trade abuses becomes a victim of the same system that silences, imprisons and tortures Chinese citizens. If our governments continue to enable this historic transfer of wealth and power to the greatest totalitarian regime in history we will surely all become victims of the Chinese Communist Party.

Two decades after Tiananmen Square it has become undeniable that our engagement policy is an emperor with no clothes. There is still time, though not very much, to admit that China is not progressing, our trade deficits are skyrocketing and a frightful Asian war is brewing. Once we face these facts, our choice of action is clear, we must actively support a truly Free China or we will suffer a Death by China. This means confronting and starving the communist beast rather than fawning on it and feeding it with further investment deals.

Greg Autry is the co-author of Death by China, a producer of the film version. He blogs at 

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David Kilgour – Reluctantly for Romney

Greg Autry - Jennifer Zeng - David Kilgour

Greg Autry, Jennifer Zheng (former Chinese labor camp and torture victim, author of Witnessing History and star of Free China), and Hon. David Kilgour at Parliament on Friday 11/2/2012 before the Death by China showing.

 Today’s guest post is by the Honorable David Kilgour, former Canadian Member of Parliament, former Secretary of State for Asia, and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. David and I had the opportunity to discuss many things in Ottawa this weekend and we spent a lot of time on the American election. As a thoughtful moderate and a fan of Mr. Obama concerned about human rights in China and jobs in North America, he was torn. His thoughtful insights are reflected here.

RELUCTANTLY FOR ROMNEY – by the Hon. David Kilgour

From all indications, most Canadians would vote to re-elect Obama president tomorrow if we could, just as we would have done in 2008. One opinion survey four years ago indicated that as many as 92 per cent of us favoured Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin. The pre-election endorsements of Obama by Colin Powell, Michael Bloomberg and the Economist magazine, all of whom might have been expected to endorse Romney, will make the comfortable choice even easier for many Canadians.

There are many qualities we like in Obama, including his intelligence, compassion, surmounting of early upbringing obstacles, and his family. Both his books, Audacity of Hope and Dreams from my Father, are compelling.  In short, many Canadians continue to have confidence in the president and to extend him the benefit of various doubts since he moved to the White House.

Mitt Romney, despite having a family cottage in Canada and thus more direct exposure to our country as a youth, is harder for many of us to identify with. He epitomizes the much-criticized 1% in a difficult economic period for many across America, Canada and the world.  He is also obliged to accommodate the Tea Party faction in the Republican party, essentially contemporary political Know Nothings, who have made it difficult for him to be what he undoubtedly is: a Massachusetts moderate.

The New York Times columnist, David Brooks, recently offered some interesting predictions about the kind of administrations each candidate would offer.

Obama would probably seek to enact the sensible program he recently laid out in an interview: recreate the budget deal of two years ago ($2.50 of spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases); cuts in corporate taxes as part of business reform ; attempted immigration reform; implement Obamacare; increase spending on infrastructure. The rest would be about smaller items, such as more math and science teachers and increased foreign affairs initiatives to build a legacy.

Romney would begin with the conviction that the status quo is unsustainable: the mounting debt is ruining America and “byzantine tax and regulatory regimes are stifling innovation and growth.” Under a Romney administration, Brooks thinks the federal government would spend about 21 per cent of the G.D.P. instead of about 24 per cent.  Importantly, Romney would respect the main lesson of the election campaign: moderation wins. Among other lessons, this means he’d have to increase taxes on the rich, reduce his tax-cut promises and abandon the draconian spending reductions in his running mate Paul Ryan`s budget proposals.

In short, for Brooks, an Obama win probably “means small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we`re more likely to get bipartisan reform…He`s more likely to get big stuff done”.

While foreign policy is one of Obama’s perceived advantages over Romney, he has certainly fumbled some major issues abroad, including climate change and the Doha Round of world trade negotiations. Whether Romney or anyone could have done better internationally as president is an open question, especially during a global economic crisis and the rise of new players on the world stage.

Among Obama`s accomplishments are his ending of George Bush’s “global war on terror”, removing American soldiers from Iraq, and his handling of the Arab Spring in some countries. On other issues–Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come readily to mind — there have been few strategic gains.

There is enormous but little-focused-upon-by-the-media concern about China and the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs across the United States. As a consequence, only about nine percent of Americans now work in the sector, when probably at least one quarter are needed for a successful modern economy. It is disingenuous for Obama and business CEOs to brag that America exported $100 billion last year to China when it imported almost $400 billion. Beijing cheats on most of its World Trade Organization commitments, but its continuing manipulation of its currency is doubtless the most destructive in terms of good jobs disappearing in America, Canada and all countries trading with China. Romney is right about the urgent need to declare China a ‘currency manipulator’ and to add 20, 30 or whatever percentage the tampering is determined to be to the price of every import from China.

On reversing the problems affecting America, Canada and so many economies, which candidate is better equipped? Martin Wolf, one of the world’s leading financial columnists, identifies some clues. At the end of Obama’s first year in office, the world was on a path very similar to the calamitous one taken in the 1930s, but managed to adopt policy responses that included expansive monetary and fiscal policy and support to the financial sector.

Wolf believes that a debt crisis inside the U.S. and a meltdown of the Eurozone are today the most likely triggers for another major crisis. He adds that there is no consensus today on what is the “right macro policy-that is the right monetary policy, the right fiscal policy, and the right policy on dealing with debt overhangs.” Whichever candidate has convinced more Americans that he can restore the American economy and get back to reasonable employment levels and growth is likely to win tomorrow.

Very reluctantly, and primarily because of Obama’s weak stand on jobs/China, I’d vote for Romney.


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Bob Hall Reviews Death by China Reviews

A guest posting from Bob Hall on our film reviewers:

Everyone, no matter what their circumstances, has more money than time.

(They just don’t know it yet.)

When people tell me about a movie they’ve seen, I always want to know how it was worth their time.  The best movies, I think, can change our lives.  This, I think, must be a good use of time.

Death by China—one of the best movies I’ve ever seen—is a good use of time.

Know, now, that this is coming from an experienced movie snob.  Back in another life—back when I thought I had time—I could drink coffee and discuss art cinema with the best of them.

(Now that I think about it: I would love to see one of those old Dave Kehr Chicago Reader reviews—on Cassavetes’s Love Streams would be perfect.)

This in mind, I hope it makes sense to hear that Death by China left me more inclined to review the reviewers than to review the film.

The longer you’ve followed the issues, the more you’ll agree with me.  I wouldn’t fault a reviewer for criticizing a film’s lighting or pacing.  This is a specialized part of their paychecks.  But when a movie and director meet a higher purpose: if the critics aren’t up to meeting at the same level, they can get in over their heads—and get their characters tested right quick.

For some lively examples, look at:

The Death by China audience rating is currently 80%—not bad, really, considering that Cassavetes’s masterpiece is 88%—but the Death by China critics’ rating is 30%.

This, I will argue, is a clear-cut case of killing the messenger.  Movie critics are specialists who understand movies better than they understand China and trade deficits.  These critics are basically, unwittingly, blaming their ignorance on film director Peter Navarro.  I agree that Death by China is outrageous and extreme, but this is only because our relationship with China is outrageous and extreme.  Navarro understands our relationship with China as well as anybody.  He’s simply presenting the facts and telling a story that needs to be told.  If anything, I’d say he’s still understating things a bit—deliberately, perhaps, in attempt to reach a larger audience.

(Of course, I live with this stuff every day, so I think almost everybody understates the dangers.)

If I were you, I’d go see Death by China as soon as possible and consider it time well invested.  It’s fascinating and informative—even entertaining in its own unpredictable way.

To say this movie has the power to change our lives is to damn with faint praise.  This movie has the power to save the world and the lives of our children.

Mostly, though:

This movie can give us time.


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