Bush Bans Bras, Improves Support

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Down here in the Carolinas the top news isn't President Bush's visit to the UK, it is his decision to slap Chinese textile imports with quotas. Bras, dressing gowns, and knit cloth—presumably made into other unmentionables—will be hit with limits because they cause "market disruptions." In English that means they are too cheap.

The Bush administration gets blasted in textile-producing areas of the South for failing to "do something" about lost jobs and shuttered mills. The quota decree, of course, does not change the underlying economics of the matter. Bans just insert guns and feds between pricetags and consumers.

That is why Bush's bra ban is being called an acceptable "first step" by U.S. textile makers. But like earlier action on imported steel, the White House goal is to shore up political support in key regions, not change the world.

NEXT: The Smell Of It

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  1. “I wasn’t aware many Southerners wore bras.”

    Aw shucks they do but they wear them backwards, mostly.

  2. Anytime you’re dealing with the Chinee you gotta look at things on three or four levels. I wonder if there isn’t something else going on in this besides the domestic political angle, maybe some little slap for their UN performances of late? I don’t know, just speculating.

  3. How can an American company, even one paying only minumum wage, possibly compete against a company that pays its employees pennies a day?

    an american company can’t — and that’s the point. the intention is to destroy these high-cost industries in america. and, believe it or not, that is a GOOD thing.

    not only does it force labor to redirect itself at what americans are currently capable of producing that others can’t; it is a boon to wages and the standard of living in the developing world as capital flows there — and it promotes global peace to boot, by making nations like china and the united states (potential enemies of the first order) economically codependent and intertwined.

  4. At some point I’ll lose my capability for angry eye-rolling. The way this administration is going, it’s gonna be way sooner than later…

    I’m with patrick. If some other country wants to pay for me to have cheaper goods, I’ll take it.

  5. Anon 12:50, your use of the phrase “evil capitalists” loses its ironic punch, if the reader has even an inkling of how the Chinese industrial/military/governmental system treats its workers. Do some reading: they’re pretty fucking evil.

  6. I agree with Joe Blog. The Bush admin will really, truly promote free trade after one last little protectionist action to ensure re-election. They’ll cut government spending after one last big spending program (prescription drugs).

    They just need to betray all of their principles to get more Republicans elected. Once they have enough power, then they’ll cut spending and promote market economics. Really. Honestly. They’re from the government and they’re here to help.

    The Congressional Republicans may indeed be much better than the Democrats. But the White House Republicans are apparently craven panderers, and the Congressional GOP is incapable of mounting resistance against this pandering.

    Is there the slightest chance that the Congressional Republicans would enact a prescription drug bill if a Democratic President asked for it? The answer to that question (whatever it may be) would determine whether we should re-elect Bush to keep an even worse Democrat out of office, or elect a Democratic President to reap the benefits of divided government.

    OK, go ahead, call me a liberal Democrat.

  7. This will not protect American textile jobs; the jobs that China loses (if any) will simply migrate to some other country that has low labor wage rates, etc.

  8. dearest joe: I am well aware that China is far from a “workers paradise.”

    But if you think tarrifs and the resulting decrease in revenues to Chinese workers is doing them a favor, you are dead wrong. You are putting them out of work most likely, and the unemployed poor are even more under the boot of the tyrants in CCP.

    Ditto if you think you are helping American workers (who also are consumers) that don’t happen to have the political dollars to restrict trade as does the textile companies and unions.

  9. Oh, don’t misunderstand: I’m against these tarriffs. I just don’t completely agree with your analysis. You seem to think there’s something wrong with screwing the evil capitalists who run China’s economy. If I could invent a tarriff that hurt them and only them, I’d support it in a second. They are evil bastards; evil capitalist bastards.

    But I disagree that having these workers unemployed increases the power of the ChiComs. (I love that word). Disgruntled masses of impoverished workers isn’t good for those in power, y’know? If keeping them unemployed was good for maintaining the evil status quo, then why would the Chinese government, which wants to maintain its power, be working so hard to put them to work?

  10. BEIJING (Reuters) – China denounced a move by the United States to cap selected textile imports on Wednesday and scrapped missions to buy American farm goods, saying the U.S. measure sullied the spirit of free trade.

    China postponed indefinitely a plan to send a delegation to buy U.S. cotton and wheat, an industry source in Hong Kong told Reuters, news that followed cancellation of a separate trip to buy soybeans.

    The cancellations were blamed on visa and logistical problems but raised fears they were retaliation for the U.S. quotas on imports some Chinese textiles.

    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=568&ncid=749&e=1&u=/nm/20031119/bs_nm/trade_china_textiles_dc

  11. Disgruntled masses in Cuba haven’t managed to turn the tide against Fidel.

    Then again, I don’t know if they’re actually disgruntled, so don’t call me on it.

  12. In other trade news, while they did manage to get a draft agreement for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, they had to water it down quite a bit to get everybody to sign on. See here. At least, unlike the tariffs deal, this is a step in the correct direction.

    Note the stupid comments by OxFam as well.

  13. For those who think they can identify country of origin on apparal, the business doesn’t work that way. Most of the apparal made in China, Vietnam, etc. is made or commissioned by small, highly responsive companies based in Hong Kong and Taiwan with operations all over the world. If the U.S. doesn’t like a shirt from China then that Chinese shirt has its last button sewn on in the Philippines and, presto, its “Made in the Philippines”.

  14. Criminy. Every time the Republicans and Democrats agree, you can just be sure that you’re going to get screwed. What is it with these guys? Do they sit around saying, “you know what Americans need? Americans need to pay more for bras. Bras are much too cheap.” What’s next, wet tee-shirt politics?

    What on earth is going to take to get these halfwits turned round to good sense, or destroyed?

    Oh yeah, we’ve got a democracy, unless you want to vote for free trade. Or lower government spending. Or you live in a gerrymandered “safe” district.

    I think “bipartisan” is just a nice word for “bend over”.

  15. not the sole reason for getting the american economy onto the road to hell (in teh form of a liquidity trap), but mucking about with free trade will certainly step on the gas. anyone up there in dc remember smoot-hawley?

    and all for a few votes in southern states he’d carry anyway.

  16. It would be nice if politicians would say what they really mean. Jeff Taylor’s piece on lingo was all well and good, but I need some help on domestic policy.

    Saving Textile Jobs = I want to ensure you pay the maximum possible for underwear.

    Saving Steel Jobs = I want to wreck manufacturing jobs and make sure you can’t afford a new car that gets better mileage.

    Promote Ethanol = What, you want me to pay farmers to do NOTHING?

  17. I was reading recently how Walmart and others have been over in China getting really tough on holding costs down. So along comes the US gummint hiking prices with import quotas.
    Is our gummint picking on Walmart–illegal aliens cleaning toilets–like our gummint is picking on Martha Stewart and, some years back, Leona Helmsley?

  18. Man, what an awful decision. Really makes me wonder about the Bush Administration. They are really going to promote free trade, right after this one last little tactical protectionist move. They are really going to control government spending, right after this one last huge politically important spending proposal.

  19. I think ruthless might be refering to this article from Fast Company Magazine. It takes an in depth look at the pressures Wal-Mart puts on its suppliers to reduce cost.

    The scope of Wal-Mart’s power in the retail world is mind bogeling and although they are a U.S. based company patriotism does not enter into their decisions. If quotas inflate the cost of undies from China Wal-Mart will buy them from anywhere else they can get them for a penny less than domestic sources.

    This will just distort production internationally but will do nothing to help U.S. manufacturers. If you think Wal-Mart’s buying decisions can’t have that effect, Consider these stats from the Fast Company article:

    Wal-Mart is not just the world’s largest retailer. It’s the world’s largest company–bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined.

    There is no question that Wal-Mart’s relentless drive to squeeze out costs has benefited consumers. The giant retailer is at least partly responsible for the low rate of U.S. inflation, and a McKinsey & Co. study concluded that about 12% of the economy’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone.

    Last year, 7.5 cents of every dollar spent in any store in the United States (other than auto-parts stores) went to the retailer.

    The rest of the article chronicles the effects of this power on manufacturers. If you work for a company that does business with WM, (I do) these stories will hit home. If you don’t they will amaze you.

  20. I wasn’t aware many Southerners wore bras.

  21. This is why the Republicans worked so hard to get China into the WTO? So we could give them a reason to sue us?

  22. If there were any doubt at all that Bush was an anti-market mercantilist, this should erase that doubt.

  23. Uh, I meant “nations,” not “mations.”

  24. Amazing. I remember learning in business school that the gov’t could drop textile quotas and duties entirely, allow the U.S. mills to go under and give their workers early retirement with pensions at double their pay and there would still be huge net savings to consumers/taxpayers.

    Regarding steel: if Japanese and European tax payers are willing to pay out the whazoo so I can have cheap steel, I’ll take that deal.

    But I guess all this would be threatening national security since it would show the rest of the world the U.S. is weak. ;}

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