Trade Expert: American Worker Screwed for ‘Last 40 Years’

Kevin Kearns slams 'lefty stuff' muddying U.S. trade policy, calls for 'national industrial strategy'

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 06 Dec 2016 at 1:16 PM

President of the U.S. Business and Industry Council Kevin Kearns blasted Democrats for injecting “lefty stuff” into American trade policy that contributed to the gutting of the nation’s manufacturing base, during an informal debate with Susan Helper Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Kearns applauded President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises to renegotiate disastrous trade deals and put the American worker first in line for policy considerations. Helper, a professor of economics at Case Western Reserve University and the former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce, advocated for the rights of foreign workers as important considerations in initiating new trade deals with foreign countries.

“That’s why the Democratic Party lost this election — because the American worker has been screwed over time and time again over the last 40 years.”

“I’m not for negotiating a whole bunch of trade agreements. They haven’t worked,” Kearns told LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham. “Donald Trump is exactly right. His inclinations are right, that these other countries are taking advantage of us.”

Helper pushed back and claimed the U.S. can cut new deals that benefit both its own workers and other countries’ workers.

“I think one key thing that’s an important part of the [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders approach is that we’ve got working people and people around the world that actually have a lot in common with each other,” Helper said. “And there’s a trade policy that would benefit both the U.S. worker and the Mexican worker. So we should think about that rather than maybe being quite so nationalistic … I think you could imagine better trade agreements that might actually lead to — do lead to — better prosperity in Mexico.”

Both Ingraham and Kearns pounced on this idea. While Ingraham maintained that the U.S. president’s job “is to look out for our country,” Kearns went after Helper’s liberal ideology.

“It’s all this lefty stuff about, ‘We have to be concerned about workers all over the world.’ You know, they have governments. They negotiate the trade deals. If [Helper] wants to be chief economist at the Mexican Department of Commerce, fine. Go do that,” Kearns said. “But all this, ‘We have to protect workers worldwide, etc.,’ that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in today. That’s why the Democratic Party lost this election — because the American worker has been screwed over time and time again over the last 40 years.”

Helper insisted that her primary concern was for the American worker — even as she spoke of benefits for foreign workers and promoting the furtherance of select advocacy issues in any new trade agreements.

“What we need to do is prioritize in our trade agreements that kind of stuff and say, ‘You know, if you don’t do something to fight climate change, you can’t export here. We’re going to put a tax on your exports for that reason,'” Helper suggested.

When Ingraham asked Helper if she believes "in using economic policy to advance a particular agenda on other issues," Helper agreed.

"Yeah. And I would include wages and working conditions," Helper said. "So, I don't think — in contrast to what Kevin said, I don't think it's this 'lefty agenda that puts Mexican workers first' … I want jobs here, but the way to do that is not through bribing a corporation."

Noting that trade "has been a drag on our economy for 40 years," Kearns advocated for what he dubbed to be a "national industrial strategy."

"If we had a national industrial strategy, we would have more money, better jobs in this country, more money circulating in this country, we'd be better off economically, [and] our national defense would be more secure," Kearns said.

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