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The public gets it that one-sided trade agreements are shipping jobs out of the country – and they want our government to do something about it.

A new Gallup poll shows that jobs and unemployment has risen to the No. 1 spot on the country's "most important problem" list. At the same time another poll, this one of likely voters, confirms this and drills down to find that voters overwhelmingly see unfair trade agreements and outsourcing as a main cause of our job problem.

The poll of likely voters, commissioned by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), agreed with Gallup that job concerns are at the top of voters’ agendas. But this poll drills down and shows that manufacturing and the jobs it creates are seen as the most critical component of our economy.

Among the poll's findings:

  • 65 percent of voters consider outsourcing as the reason for a lack of new manufacturing jobs (70 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents and 65 percent of Republicans). Only 28 percent of voters cite a potential shortage of skilled workers for the lack of new manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and only 25 percent say it is too expensive to manufacture in America.
  • 60 percent of voters say the U.S. needs to “get tough” with countries like China (58 percent of Democrats and independents, 64 percent of Republicans).
  • 79 percent of voters blame trade agreements and unfair trade, and want enforcement, including 76-77 percent of GOP voters.
  • 84 percent of voters support a national manufacturing strategy to “make sure that economic, tax, education and trade policies in this country work together to help support manufacturing.” This includes 87 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of independents, and 82 percent of Republicans.
  • 80 percent of voters want strong "Buy American" policies in government spending, with 67 percent "strongly in favor."

Trade and Outsourcing

The AAM poll shows that voters "get it" that our country's trade policies are a problem.

When asked, "Which of the following is the single biggest obstacle to creating manufacturing jobs in America today?" 30 percent agreed that "our trade policies encourage outsourcing" and another 15 percent agreed that "our country doesn’t have a real plan to compete against Germany or China."

Harm Done By Trade Deficit

Our country has been running a trade deficit since the late 1970s and especially since the early 1980s, when "free trade" became the mantra of the opinion elite. A trade deficit means we are buying more from outside the country that we are selling to other countries. This means that the jobs for things made here are shifted to other countries.

Some people say this helps the people in other countries, and that eventually they will be prosperous enough to buy from us. But this is not what has happened, as demonstrated by the fact that the trade deficit gets worse every year, not better. It has risen to the $500 billion range, representing millions of jobs.

A way to visualize the damage done by this trade deficit is to imagine what would happen to our economy if $500 billion of orders arrived right now at companies making and doing things in the U.S. The huge boom in the economy that would result from $500 billion of orders coming in represents the drain caused by $500 billion in orders going out instead.

Another effect of this is that employers can keep wages from rising, and even cut them, because so many people are looking for work. How many of us understand that employers now have the option of shipping our job out of the country to "save money?"

That wage differential has gone into a few pockets on all sides of the trade borders. Executives know they can pocket that wage differential. When they send a good-paying job to a low-paying country, that money that was paid goes somewhere. And now we see all the gains here going to a very few people – and in countries like China there are reports that the families of many of the leaders have become billionaires.

Voters Blame Government Policies, President And Congress

One more thing. The AAM poll shows that voters blame government policies, and say government at all levels is not doing enough to fix this.

  • Voters want the government to focus on job creation, not deficit reduction, by 65 percent to 31 percent.
  • Voters who believe President Obama is doing “some” or “a great deal” to create manufacturing jobs has fallen from 56 percent in 2010 to 47 percent now.
  • Voters who believe President Obama is doing “some” or “a great deal” to enforce trade also fell from 52 percent to 44 percent.
  • Voters who believe congressional Democrats are doing “some” or “a great deal” to create manufacturing jobs fell from 46 percent in 2010 to 40 percent; on trade enforcement it declined from 47 percent to 38 percent.
  • Voters who believe Congressional Republicans are doing “some” or “a great deal” to create manufacturing jobs dropped from 39 percent in 2010 to 28 percent; on trade enforcement it fell from 37 percent to 34 percent.

So much for thinking that voters want government to keep out of this.

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