February 11, 2009

You know, sometimes the U.S. just gets dumber and dumber.

For such a supposedly smart and “exceptional” country, I’m always amazed at our stupidity. Here we go again.

The stimulus package has “Buy American” provisions. You know, save the steel industry. Keep jobs in the U.S. Whatever.

In today’s New York Times, Tom Friedman comments on our “worst protectionist impulses,” specifically “restricting banks and other financial institutions that receive taxpayer bailout money from hiring high-skilled immigrants on temporary work permits.”

You know why that’s dumb? Cause we want to hire the best people, the smartest people. In Friedman’s words, we want to attract the “first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world” because that’s “the most competitive advantage a knowledge economy can have.”

But of course, the U.S. gets even dumber with its “Buy American” protectionism.

Guess what else will happen? Every other country will embrace its own protectionism.

Hell, we won’t be able to sell to anyone cause they’ll buy locally. Maybe no one will loan us money – we’re so toxic anyway. And why shouldn’t other countries just loan inside their own countries? Or maybe just inside the European Union?

Do you read anything but U.S. news? Do you read, for example, The Economist? Or a French newspaper? Or a Saudi or German newspaper? Do you pay attention to anything other than the good old (and too often dumb) USA?

In its 02-07-09 issue, The Economist talks about “the return of economic nationalism.” The article talks about what it takes to manage the current complex global crisis: “nuance and pragmatism rather than stridency and principle.”

The article expresses grave concern about the “re-emergence of a spectre from the darkest period of modern history…economic nationalism…the urge to keep jobs and capital at home.” And this approach, says The Economist is “both turning the economic crisis into a political one and threatening the world with depression. If it is not buried again forthwith, the consequences will be dire.”

To return to Tom Friedman’s op-ed piece this morning in the New York Times: “If there is one thing we know for absolute certain, it’s this: Protectionism did not cause the Great Depression, but it sure helped to make it ‘Great.’ From 1929 to 1934, word trade plunged more than 60% – and we were all worse off.”

Friedman gives us even worse news. Things like more than 1/2 of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants; that when immigrant work visas go down, patent applications go down in the U.S.

And Newsweek gets in the action, too, with an essay asking “Could Silicon Valley become another Detroit?” The answer? Yes, of course. As Friedman notes, “When the best brains in the world are on sale, you don’t shut them out. You open the doors wider.”

Hey President Obama. Are you going to lead the U.S. and lead the world? Will you veto a stimulus package that includes “Buy American” provisions? Because if you don’t, you just send the same old unexceptional message to the rest of the world. And you can best your ass (and all the asses in the U.S.) that the rest of the world will follow suit.

Protectionism here we come. And will we see another Great Depression?

Filed under: Social Commentary

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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