We can’t build enough cars because the chips invented here in America are all made abroad. 30% of America’s oil is now exported by giant oil companies who are driving up our gasoline prices because of “scarcity.” That’s crazy!
Since then, how have the Reagan administration and neoliberals gotten away with making our nation almost entirely dependent on China and a handful of other low-wage countries for everything from the chips in our cars to our cell phones to the technology needed to build a battleship or a missile is? ?
And who handed over our energy destiny to the Saudis?
Of all the concepts that shape the way most Americans see our country, self-reliance is paramount.
While much of this is based on fantasy ideas and children’s stories about “pioneers” carving their own lives out of the wilderness (in reality, community was the core value that guaranteed success for frontier towns), it is nonetheless a fundamental value inherent in American imagination by himself.
Self-reliance is also the number one meme promoted by right-wing media and billionaires, celebrated by the Republican Party, and used to market everything from guns to trucks to survival food for Trump humpers.
“Stand on your own two feet!” is a popular GOP mantra, especially when it comes to poor people looking for bootstraps to pull themselves up with.
However, self-reliance is a different matter when applied to nations.
George Washington understood the concept of national self-reliance; When he became president, he asked his Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, to come up with a plan to wean America off British-made products.
Hamilton’s 11-point plan for American manufacturers, also known as The American planliterally built this country.
From 1793, when the American plan was widely adopted until the Reagan administration began negotiating a large-scale meat ax in the 1980s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which led to the World Trade Organization) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we built things here.
In 1983 Louise and I moved to Atlanta and a new Wal-Mart had just opened down the street from us in what I recall in the suburb of Alpharetta. The banner that hung in front of the massive building proudly displayed Sam Walton’s title autobiography: “100% Made in America!”
But 1978 Lewis Powell by Powell memo Glory authored the Boston vs. Bellotti Supreme Court decision based on previous rulings that corporations are persons with constitutional rights. The decision also changed our laws so that it is no longer bribery or corruption when companies use their profits to buy politicians, but constitutionally protected “freedom of speech”.
The result was that in 1980, Ronald Reagan floated into the White House on a tsunami of fossil fuels and corporate money and a lobbying frenzy to deconstruct the national industrial policy that Hamilton had so carefully crafted and sustained America for 188 years.
Arguing that work is “just another good” and that corporations should be able to seek “freely” the cheapest labor they could find anywhere in the world, corporate lobbyists and CEOs sat down against Reagan and the Congress to ease or remove tariff protections and other trade restrictions American manufacturers held here in this country.
The result has been the closure of over 60,000 American factories over the past 40 years (most of it in the first 30 of these years) and the relocation of over 15,000,000 well-paying, mostly unionized American jobs to Mexico, China, Vietnam and elsewhere .
The era was embodied by GE CEO Jack Welch, who famously argued that factories shouldn’t be tied to corporations any specific country, but should simply be able to hover to that new location when cheaper labor became available on the horizon.
“Ideally,” was his famous and often quoted one mantra“You would have every plant you own on a barge.”
Car prices now account for about a third of our inflation rate because supplies are so tight. That reason? We no longer make the chips invented here in America that are required to run today’s high-tech vehicles. Much of that production has been moved to China, where labor is cheap and there are no pesky unions to worry about… but the supply chain is now broken.
And yet Americans still believe in self-reliance. It’s been burned into our psyches since our earliest school years.
During one of my teenage summers, my best friend Clark Stinson, his girlfriend Colleen, and I took two 10-foot teepees and 100 pounds of dried fruit and grains to the Chippewa National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With the help of an old trapper who lived there, we hauled our gear back into the forest for three days to a small unmarked lake, set up our tipis and lived there for the next few months.
We were both junkies to Emerson and Thoreau and, steeped in Emerson’s essay on self-reliance and Thoreau’s example at Walden Pond, we spent the summer collecting wild plants, reading books on spirituality and wilderness survival, and meditating.
The biggest lesson I learned from this experience was that on an individual level, confidence is largely a fantasy.
We all depend on each other, and without the infrastructure of a functioning society, none of us will survive for long. Even the homeless form a community; Interdependence is at the core of our humanity, although this interdependence is the basis of our sense of individual autonomy.
The danger with interdependence, however, is that we become entangled with predators. Whether it’s low-income people getting by on payday loans and credit cards, workers so intimidated they’re afraid to form a union, or diabetics who are being billed thousands of dollars a year for medication, their It costs pennies to manufacture, when predators have us down, all those high-minded notions of self-reliance go away.
It’s the same with nations.
We have become dependent on predators for our oil and manufactured goods, and this has gutted the American working class while placing us in dangerous military and foreign policy positions.
Back in 1975, during the Arab oil embargo, Congress passed the Energy policy and energy saving law which urged the President to enact rules banning the export of American-produced fossil fuels.
That law lasted until 2015, when neoliberal North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp proposed it American Crude Oil Export Equality Act that was rolled into an omnibus spending bill later that year and signed into law by President Obama.
Wednesday I recommended that in response to Saudi Arabia joining Putin, we should repeal Heitkamp’s laws and return to the export ban on crude oil and gasoline.
In seven short years we have gone from exporting all our oil and being completely energy self-sufficient – self-reliant – to exporting full 30 percent of oil produced in America.
Huge international oil companies even refine US crude oil here, leaving us with polluted air, waste and cancer, and then export the cleaned gasoline to other countries.
Last year, Bloomberg reported, gasoline exports hit a record high of 802,000 barrels per daymost go to Brazil and Mexico.
At the same time, the fossil fuel industry pulled down some eye candy $138 billion profit In the last three months alone, gas dealers in America have been ratcheting up prices over alleged gas shortages. Right.
Now, in a moment of clarity, the Biden administration is considering cancellation Heitkamp’s law or the promulgation of new export rules to bring America back to energy self-sufficiency.
It can’t come soon enough.
Similarly, we have allowed greedy executives and manufacturing companies to offload so much of our production to China and other low-wage countries that little remains of our nation’s capacity for self-sufficiency.
Congressman Ro Khanna from California published a book on the subject back in 2012. Entrepreneurial Nation: Why manufacturing is still key to America’s futureand recently published an article in the Boston Globe In it, he outlined his vision for a revitalization of American manufacturing, particularly in the high-tech space. He calls it “economic patriotism,” a term that would resonate nationally.
The last third of my latest book, The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted Americais largely dedicated to Hamilton American plan and how it was discarded by Reagan and has lain dormant through every President’s administration ever since.
This is a bipartisan issue. In the 2016 election, Trump campaigned to bring our factories back from China – another Trump lie – and it was probably why he took several Midwestern states away from Hillary Clinton, who still wants Bill’s embrace of “free trade.” ‘ defended.
The myth of individual self-reliance has fueled libertarian and republican fantasies since high school kids began reading Atlas shrugged. Nonetheless, we really are all in this together, and as the morbidly rich try to back away from their social obligations, the poorer and more desperate our nation becomes.
But at the national level, self-reliance is not only good, it is essential. If China were to attack Taiwan and at the same time cut off all ships carrying goods to America, our economy would collapse within weeks. If Saudi Arabia cut off oil for the US, inflation would eat us alive.
Americans can hold the same idea in two different contexts at the same time: we’ve been doing it for centuries. While we embrace interdependence at home, we must also strive for self-reliance internationally.