The Bottom Line
Published 2:44 pm Thursday, August 14, 2008
Erosion of America’s corporate identity
By Tray Smith
Free trade advocates may have lost the last remaining rationale for their agenda when, last month, a Belgian company agreed to buy Anheuser-Busch, the American company that produces Budweiser, America’s beer.
The agreement, which still must be approved by various corporate and governmental authorities, makes Anheuser-Busch the latest American brewery to be usurped by a foreign corporation, following the buyouts of smaller competitors Miller and Coors. However, the beer industry is not the only sector of our economy that has been affected by this phenomenon. The government of Dubai recently purchased New York City’s Chrysler building, long a monument to American architecture. Lenovo, a Chinese computer firm, purchased IBM’s PC division a few years ago, gaining a foothold in one of the advanced markets Americans are supposedly focusing on now that manufacturing is no longer an employment powerhouse. Pennsylvania is even considering selling its turn pike to a consortium of foreign investors.
These developments only aggravate anxieties already growing among Americans fearful of what they perceive to be a decline in their country’s global stature. More importantly, these corporate takeovers underscore the loss of nationhood the United States has endured, a loss that has been facilitated not only by free trade and geopolitical weakness, but illegal immigration, domestic economic problems and the nonexistent patriotism of many young and middle-aged Americans.
These impressions are reinforced by frequent magazine articles chronicling America’s decline, books such as the newly released Post American Century and Presidential campaign stops in foreign countries, like Senator Obama’s recent rally in Germany, where he introduced himself as a “citizen of the world.”
To be fair, Democrats have not sacrificed American citizenship anymore than Republicans have outsourced American industry. The supply-siders respond that globalized trade has been a great boost for the U.S. economy. Importing foreign made goods has made items much cheaper for consumers, which has in turn made more goods available to more people and raised our standard of living. Foreign competition has made our companies more productive, eliminating inefficiencies that plague isolated economies. Our workers are now focusing on more advanced work in research and service sectors. Exports are keeping the United States financially afloat; without them, we would have been in recession long ago. Technology has displaced more workers than free trade has and innovation has allowed domestic manufacturing output to increase despite the many jobs and factories that have been relocated in other countries.
Those arguments are valid, and together they present a compelling argument in favor of expanding our global economic engagements. But the traditional debate over outsourcing and the economic benefit of free trade is no longer important. It is one thing for American companies to rely on foreign workers to produce their goods at lower cost. It is an entirely different issue when those same American companies get bought out by their foreign competitors, taking their capital and management overseas.
Many Americans sympathize with allowing our corporations to compete against companies from across the world in stores both at home and abroad. They believe in the superiority of American companies, American workers and American products. More importantly, they are confident in the ability of U.S. companies to adapt and change according to competitive pressure. However, most Americans object to the systematic erosion of America’s corporate identity as a result of foreign acquisitions, especially acquisitions financed or subsidized by foreign governments. Such acquisitions have become commonplace in our “interdependent” economy.
Ending this phenomenon while preserving the positive affects of world trade will require complex adjustments in public policy, especially trade policy. Yet, neither Presidential candidate is talking about such reforms. If they don’t start soon, we may be thanking the Belgians for more than Bud Light.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@ hotmail.com.