MSNBC's Buchanan Comes Out Firing Against Free Trade

You can learn a lot from history, unless you’re Pat Buchanan. 

In a Dec. 23 segment on MSNBC’s “Hardball” about the struggling American auto manufacturers, the three-time presidential candidate launched into a tirade about globalization – that is, how imported automobiles from other nations have forced American automakers into an unsustainable competition.

“The problem is we want the highest paid workers in the world. We want them to have the most benefits, the safest, most protected factories,” Buchanan said. “We don’t want to put them into head-to-head competition with Chinese or in unsafe factories making $2 an hour. The problem is globalization.” 

Buchanan’s solution isn’t a bailout for the automakers, which potentially could go away and leave 1.8 million unemployed by one Michigan consulting firm’s estimate. He wants the nation to enact protectionism and become wholly self-sufficient.

“The problem is globalism,” Buchanan continued. “We used to make everything in this country … In 1781 Alexander Hamilton -- they had French musket, French uniforms, French ships. He said we’ve got to be economically independent if we’re to be politically independent. He structured an economic system called protectionism – put it in every Republican platform until 1948. That’s how we became the greatest manufacturing power the world has ever of seen, producing everything we consumed here, and the Americans had the highest standard of living the world had ever seen. It can be done. It was done.”

But the last time the United States put up trade barriers in a time of economic fragility was the infamous Smoot-Hawley Act signed into law by President Herbert Hoover. Edward Goldberg, a consultant on international trade and professor of international marketing at the Zicklin Graduate School of Business, Baruch College of the City University of New York, explained how this made matter worse.

“President Hoover, against the recommendations of most of the major economists and industrialists, signed Smoot-Hawley into law on June 17, 1930,” Goldberg wrote for The Washington Times on Nov. 17. “The law raised tariffs to record levels on more than 20,000 imported goods. America’s trading partners retaliated immediately by dramatically increasing their own tariffs. The U.S. export market subsequently collapsed, falling by more than half, and the jobs that depended on those exports disappeared. International trade froze, helping the recession of 1929 become the Great Depression.”