View from Lodi, CA: Bush and the Economy
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President George W. Bush is getting terrible advice. Instead of scurrying around the country, my suggestion to Bush is to stay inside the White House, permit himself only to be photographed behind his Oval Office desk and maybe pose for a couple of shots on Easter morning hunting eggs with Barney and Spot.

Bush's public presence is a sour reminder to voters of the disappointment his administration has been. Instead of looking presidential, Bush appears clueless.

Signs of Bush miasma are everywhere: in his Economic Report to Congress that proposed that hamburger flipping be classified as a "manufacturing job," during his trip to Bakersfield where he waxed optimistic because a local stock-car builder added two new jobs and in unemployment ravaged Ohio where he insisted the country was on the right track.

Maybe Bush is right and everyone else is wrong. As Michigan Congressman John Dingell sardonically noted, if hamburgers grilling could be reclassified, new careers in "spatula operating, napkin restocking and lunch tray removal" would be created.

The 250,000 jobs lost in Ohio since Bush was inaugurated are jobs that won't be coming back. One reason is that Bush, for all of his red, white and blue bluster, is more concerned about his relationship with China than he is with American manufacturers and workers.

Last year, executives from US industries including mold and die building, capital equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electrical components and furniture told the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and State that Chinese influence and distortion are leading to the demise of entire blocks of businesses.

Chinese products illegally dumped into US markets have left major industries struggling for their survival.

The American executives accused the US government of meeting with Chinese officials and, according to a Manufacturing and Technology News article on the meeting, "favoring false and misleading data provided by Chinese importers over the U.S. petitioners and treating the U.S. companies with disdain." [Bush Is Accused Of Favoring Chinese Over U.S. Interests, June 3, 2003]

One incredulous executive after another told how the government had abandoned them.

Dave Dyer, vice president of Henrendon Furniture Industries of Morgantown, N.C., said that furniture imports from China have jumped from $423 million in 1996 to $2.9 billion in 2002, a 15-fold increase. Said Dyer: "Had someone suggested to me five years ago that we would be vulnerable to an onslaught of low-cost furniture products originating offshore, I would not have believed it," said Dyer.

William Litzler, president of machine tool maker Litzler Co., stated that his manufacturing customers are "gone." Industry trade shows, according to Litzler, resemble "funerals." And Litzler warned that this "jeopardizes American capital equipment makers, the mainstay of our industrial sector. It's almost as if the United States has quietly decided not to do any more manufacturing. We seem content to be a nation of finance companies, lawyers, doctors and educators who rely on imported goods to satisfy day-to-day needs."

But one of the manufacturers has ratcheted his battle with Bush up a notch. New Jersey-based Motion Systems instigated a lawsuit against the president and U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick for failing to protect American businesses from a glut of Chinese exports.

Motion Systems president Bill Wolf, noting that a Chinese company sold his product—devices used in dentist chairs and scooters for senior citizens—in the US for less than his cost of goods, had earlier entered a 421 petition at the International Trade Commission. (A 421 should protect American manufacturers from market instability caused by surging imports.)

Although the ITC agreed that Chinese imports were hurting Motions Systems and that quotas should be applied, the Bush administration refused to comply. This is the third of five cases wherein the ITC sided with the company but never got White House support.

Prior to filing his lawsuit, Wolf commented that, "An intense lobbying campaign was launched by the Chinese to thwart relief to my industry. To say that I'm dumfounded by the administration giving credence to the viewpoints of the Chinese government over the recommendations of the ITC and contrary to the will of Congress would be an understatement."

When I spoke with Wolf, he said, "I started my business in 1972 and have done everything by the book. Some of my employees have been with me for over 25 years. But competing is impossible."

Wolf continued: "China has 250,000,000 unemployed. They're lined up to work for 85 cents an hour. Their day starts at sun up and ends at sun down with one day off a month. The minute one factory worker slows down, he gets thrown out and is replaced with a younger, stronger one. We need to get serious about the threat China represents. It is the number one purchaser of machine tools in the world."

As anger over jobs in America reaches the boiling point, Bush seems content to drag out all the old saws about a "recovering economy." But as more and more voters realize that the majority of lost jobs will never come back, Bush's own future may be at an address other than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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