Pinkerton: Made in the USA or Made in China? The Glaring Problem with Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

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Whenever he touted his infrastructure plan during his 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden was emphatic about one key proviso: The infrastructure itself would be Made in the USA.  On the campaign website, some policy scribe pledged, “Biden will rely on American union labor and American-made materials and products to build this infrastructure.” 

Indeed, that Biden webpage linked to another page on the site hailing the candidate’s “Plan to Ensure the Future is Made in All of America by America’s Workers.” There, we read that the goal of the Biden plan is to “ensure the future is ‘made in all of America’ by all of America’s workers.” 

Sounds good!  In fact, public opinion was and is solidly on Biden’s side. “Buy American” has always been a big winner with voters; so one can imagine that Biden’s economic nationalism gained him some votes last year.  

After all, Biden’s pro-jobs-at-home message was not limited to his website.  Here’s Biden himself on the campaign trail last September, delivering his economic-nationalist message to an audience in the swing state of Michigan. Not only did he call for making more things here, but he also lambasted Donald Trump for not doing enough to create good jobs at good wages.

Yes, American jobs for Americans is indeed a winning message. A poll from earlier this year found that 63 percent of Americans support “Buy American,” even if American-made products “cost significantly more.”  

With that finding in mind, we might take a moment to admire the common-sense wisdom of the American people. Instinctively, folks understand that it’s better to make things here at home and not be dependent on foreigners who might not always be friendly.  

In fact, for the historically minded, it’s a demonstrable economic fact that made-in-America policies powered the nation’s rise to greatness. During the American Revolution, the patriot Alexander Hamilton had seen that George Washington’s forces were nearly overwhelmed by British superiority in the hardware of warfare. And so, mindful of the inevitability of some future conflict, Hamilton—who himself had fought in the Revolution before becoming President Washington’s first secretary of the Treasury—set to work fixing America’s industrial weakness.  

Hamilton’s first step was writing the Report on the Subject of Manufactures, published in 1791, in which Secretary Hamilton wrote: 

Every nation . . . ought to endeavour to possess within itself all the essentials of national supply.  These comprise the means of Subsistence habitation clothing and defence.

Happily, Hamilton’s Report came to dominate American economic thinking for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, tilting the nation toward industry, security, and prosperity. 

And someone on the Biden campaign knew of this glorious history. As the campaign website reminded us, “U.S. manufacturing was the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II, and must be part of the Arsenal of American Prosperity today, helping fuel an economic recovery for working families.” (In past years here at Breitbart News, this author has written much about the U.S. economy during World War Two and the lessons its success holds for us today.) 

So given Biden’s many promises about the centrality of Made In USA, surely he’s going to do everything he can to redeem that promise, right? Right?  

Well, actually maybe not.

Breitbart News’ John Binder combed through the 2,700 pages (as Breitbart News scooped) of the new infrastructure bill, and he made a key catch. As currently written, the bill includes a huge loophole that allows government officials to waive the “Buy American” provisions if they so choose. As Binder puts it:

Directly beneath the Buy American rule, though, is a massive carveout that allows the heads of federal agencies to bypass the requirement if they consider the requirement “inconsistent with the public interest,” does not meet “satisfactory quality,” or if they believe buying American will increase costs for the projects.

So we can see: According to the bill, infrastructure must be Made In USA—unless the bureaucrats decide otherwise.  

So now we can wonder: What would the federal government do if Buy American got in the way of some other objective, such as, say, importing solar panels from China as part of a crash effort to combat climate change?  

We can say that as of now, there’s no way to know for sure the answer to that question—after all, the infrastructure bill has to pass through the Senate and the House.

Yet we do know this much: Although Made In USA is popular on Main Street, it has long been unpopular among the political, economic, and academic elites.  And that’s why, in years past, plenty of Made In USA provisions have become law, and yet the elites have dismissed them, showing little enthusiasm for enforcing them.  

And why is that? Because the elites see “Buy American” as a gross violation of proper free-trade orthodoxy and/or as a regrettable expression of retrograde jingoism. And this elite hostility helps explain why the annual trade deficit has ballooned over the last half-century, from near zero to nearly $800 billion. 

To illustrate how this process of dismissal works, we can recall that back in 2009, Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, enacted an $831 billion stimulus bill. That legislation had some economic-nationalist particulars, and yet they were ignored. In fact, the Obama administration actually used the bill as an opportunity to import condoms.  

Indeed, the immediate result of Obama’s stimulus was the hiking of our trade deficit with China — because that’s where much of the stimulus went!

To put the matter another way, since we were importing so much stuff from China, American dollars spent by consumers here went over there to producers in China, thereby stimulating Chinese manufacturers. Moreover, the Chinese used that money wisely to build lots of boom-sustaining infrastructure in China. 

Thus we see the problem with borrowing or printing money when we make so little here at home: Our money ends up being used to build up some other country’s factories. 

Thus we Americans find ourselves falling back into the same trap we were in back in the 18th century: Our adversary (Britain then, China now) makes the wares we need, including the wares for military defense.   

We can add that these days, national strength comes not just from hardware such as steel (China now makes 15 times as much as steel as the U.S.), but also from middleware such as the innards of computers and other cyber tech (the U.S. is struggling to develop its own 5G internet capacity, after having ceded the industry to China). 

So we can see: It’s an urgent imperative, for the sake of both national security and a healthy economy, for the U.S. to claw back its manufacturing base in hardware, in middleware, and in everything else. After all, as this author has noted last month here at Breitbart News, “good jobs at good wages” come from making things here at home, not from installing things, such as solar panels, imported from overseas (China has 80 percent of the world market).

So the infrastructure bill is good way to start restoring American manufacturing capacity by buying American. To be sure, restarting American industries might take a while, and it might cost more than simply importing more goods, and yet it would be healthy, strategically as well as economically, for us to get off the China drip.

For inspiration and as a reminder of what’s possible, we might look back to World War Two, when the Japanese cut off our supply of Asian rubber after their sneak-attack on Pearl Harbor plunged us into war.  So what did Uncle Sam do about the loss of his rubber supply?  Actually, it’s quite a heartening tale. As chronicled by the American Chemical Society, the U.S. whomped up a whole new synthetic rubber industry, which proved to be bigger and better than its organic predecessor. And we did all this in a matter of months. That’s American ingenuity. And that’s how you win a war.  

Today, given the challenges we face abroad as well as at home, we need exactly that sort of Can Do Spirit. Most obviously, if we can no longer trust China, then it’s not a good idea that so many at the Pentagon use Chinese-made iPhones and iPads. So let’s rid ourselves of that dangerous dependence and start by using the infrastructure bill as a new kind of declaration of independence from China. Yes, let’s have Made In USA infrastructure, as a prelude to more of everything else being Made In USA. 

The Democrats’ Gender Reveal

Yet unfortunately, from the current looks of the infrastructure bill, “Middle Class Joe” isn’t keeping his make-it-here campaign promise. To be sure, it’s possible that real and enforceable Made in USA provisions will be added in the legislative process still to come—there will, after all, be plenty of twists and turns inside the Capitol Hill sausage factory. And public pressure (hint, hint) can work wonders. As they say of pols, “When they feel the heat, they see the light.”  

Yet for now at least, it seems that the Democrats who rule Washington, D.C., have other priorities. For instance, the very same infrastructure bill contains a curious provision, noted by Breitbart’s Wendell Husebø: The bill’s language declares that “gender identity” is now a legally protected category. For those wondering as to the precise definition of “gender identity,” Husebø cites an impeccable source of political correctness–namely, NPR–which informs us that “gender identity” comes from “one’s own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.” Any questions?

Some critics will say, of course, that special provisions for exotic gender categories are actually more in keeping with the Democratic Party of today than is “old-fashioned” infrastructure. That is, sexual freedom and sexual expression are more important to Democrats than matters of jobs and the economy.  

Is that a bad rap? A malicious slur? Maybe, but there’s an easy way to get a definitive answer: Let’s see what happens with this bill as it progresses.  There’s no guarantee that it will pass, of course, and yet if it does, ending up on Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, we can count on the intrepid reporters at Breitbart News to tell us the fate of the various sneaky provisions they have already sleuthed, plus whatever other interesting provisions might be found hidden inside.  

So what will it be, in-charge Democrats?  Made In USA? Gender identity? The former? The latter? Both? Neither?  

Whatever the answer might be, it will reveal much about the Democrats—and Americans, including voters, should be paying close attention. 

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