Well, now. Coronavirus appears to have finally awakened America to the cost of entrusting our economic wellbeing, national security and, yes, public health to murderous and lying dictators.
We were sold a bill of goods: bring the Tiananmen Square butchers, dissident organ harvesters, church bombers and nuclear terror sponsors into the global village – and offer them highly favored and unfettered access to our markets.
And Abracadabra! – transform them into enlightened rulers, liberalized free-marketeers, dependable business partners and trustworthy participants in a stable New World Order.
Instead, we got systematic trade cheating, purloining of intellectual property, cybertheft and hacking, and cheap competition from actual and virtual slave labor. Not to mention peddling of potent fentanyl, poisonous counterfeit vapes (cause of last year’s deadly lung illness) and a long string of other hazardous exports; and, of course, periodic unleashing of worldwide pandemics.
It seems the resultant hollowing out of our industrial base, trillions in trade deficits, the demise of millions of jobs and surrender of control of critical products and supply chains – as noted on these pages – still weren’t quite enough to alert us to the damage of holding our economy and, in reality, our entire way of life hostage to the machinations of duplicitous despots.
No, really rousing our collective consciousness required thousands of lives endangered, a near-total shutdown of our economy and public life, the loss of trillions of dollars of market wealth and a likely catastrophic downturn – with predictions of Depression-level joblessness and double-digit plunges in GDP.
And as a cherry on top, veiled threats to cut off vital medical supplies and the expulsion of journalists from leading U.S. publications – a step that inspired the Wall Street Journal’s globalist Walter Russell Mead to lament the Middle Kingdom’s construction of a “new Iron Curtain.”
So what to do? Well, the first order of business appears to be for Uncle Sam to fire up the printing presses to produce a “stimulus” package that ostensibly ameliorates the economic carnage of the almost certainly overwrought reaction to the crisis (a topic for another time).
With the same Republican Party that once unanimously (save one) opposed Sleek Barry Obama’s epic $831-billion 2009 giveaway falling all over itself to surpass him by a country mile. (Since a $23.4 trillion national debt – 121% of current GDP – and trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see weren’t bad enough.)
But what if we could instead have a “two-fer:” a real, sustainable stimulus that also untethers us from our insanely dangerous head-to-toe entanglement with hostile totalitarians?
Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Republican Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher have taken a baby step by proposing legislation that would bar Chinese pharmaceutical imports and incentivize their production on our shores. And suggestions have been mooted of conditioning proposed handouts to selected industries on reduced ties to the People’s Republic.
But why stop there? Why not, as the President keeps repeating, “Go big”… but in the right way?
Let’s say: a 10-year corporate tax holiday for investments rebuilding our lost industrial infrastructure and supply chain across-the-board – by repatriating manufacturing and sourcing from China.
Not only could such an action rapidly decouple the U.S. from Far East tyrants, it would provide the right kind of stimulus by:
- Focusing relief on one of the worst taxes in existence – one actually paid by consumers, as it is not only simply passed through but introduces outrageous inefficiencies and employs armies of unproductive lawyers and accountants, adding to the cost of goods.
- Empowering the private sector by setting companies free to raise, invest and keep their own funds rather than printing cash and tossing it out like candy at a parade.
- Attacking the problem from the supply side with a long-term perspective, instead of a demand-driven, here-today-gone-tomorrow sugar high – and in the process ginning up Wall Street by offering investors the prospect of future earnings once we’re past the crisis.
- And directly benefiting American workers, while creating powerful ripple effects across the economy, as business and jobs come home to flyover country. Perhaps even igniting sufficient economic activity to offset its costs over time.
There’s recent precedent: incentives in the 2017 Trump tax cut that as of late last year had led to the repatriation of more than $1 trillion in offshore earnings.
It’s time to add a new call to action alongside “flatten the curve” – that watchword of the current crisis.
“Rebuild the base!” And thereby, both enhance our security – and unleash a real American resurgence.
Bob Maistros is president of RPM Executive Communications, Inc., which provides high-level message development, communications strategy and crisis support to firms ranging from the Fortune 500 to tech startups, and he is of counsel at the Alexandria, Va.-based Strategic Action Public Affairs. He was chief writer for the 1984 Reagan re-election campaign and also wrote for Sens. Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch.