Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
In 1992, Ross Perot won almost 20% of the entire presidential vote on the single issue of stopping so-called "free trade." Today, several presidential candidates are gaining huge traction with similar opposition to NAFTA, CAFTA, and the upcoming Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement (SHAFTA, now called the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP).
Time has proven Perot right, and his arguments were consistent with a long history of American industrial success prior to the "free trade" era of the past 30+ years.
Our radical experiment of so-called "free trade" has clearly failed America, although few Americans know why or how. Here's the back-story.
George Washington on "Made In America" goods
On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress, rode up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro-tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington he'd just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation's capital, New York City.
This created two problems for Washington.
The first was saying goodbye to his 82-year-old mother, which the 57-year-old Washington did that night. She gave him her blessing, and told him it was the last time he'd see her alive as she was gravely ill. She died before he returned from New York.
The second was finding a suit of clothes made in America. For that, he sent a courier to his old friend and fellow general from the American Revolutionary War, Henry Knox.
Washington couldn't find a suit made in America because in the years prior to the American Revolution, the British East India Company (whose tea was thrown into Boston Harbor by outraged colonists after the Tea Act of 1773 gave the world's largest transnational corporation a giant tax break) controlled the manufacture and transportation of a whole range of goods, including fine clothing.
Cotton and wool could be grown and sheared in the colonies, but had to be sent to England to be manufactured into clothing.
This was a routine policy for England, and is why until India achieved its independence in 1947, Mahatma Gandhi (who was assassinated a year later) illegally sat with his spinning wheel for his lectures and spun daily in his own home. It was, like his Salt March, a protest against the colonial practices of England and an entreaty to his fellow Indians to make their own clothes to gain independence from British companies and institutions.
Fortunately for George Washington, an American clothing company had been established on April 28, 1783, in Hartford, Connecticut by a man named Daniel Hinsdale, and they produced high-quality woolen and cotton clothing, and also made things from imported silk.
It was to Hinsdale's company that Knox turned, and helped Washington get -- in time for his inauguration two weeks later -- a nice, but not excessively elegant, brown American-made suit. (He wore British black later for the celebrations and the most famous painting.)
When Washington became president in 1789, most of America's personal and industrial products of any significance were manufactured in England or in its colonies. Washington asked his first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, what could be done about that, and Hamilton came up with an 11-point plan to build American manufacturing, which he presented to Congress in 1791.
By 1793, most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either Washington or the various states.