Grassroots Commentary

Patriotism and the Foreign Car

Thomas Berry · Jan. 16, 2012

My wife and I have driven a certain brand of foreign car for several years. A friend who is ardently pro-union has always looked askance at this. Now, being aware of my political views, he has questioned my patriotism because I don’t own an American-made car.

We chose this brand after driving American vehicles for several years, most recently a Ford Explorer. It was a decent vehicle, but a series of negative life events made it impossible for us to keep it. We needed to make a one-for-two trade, and no dealer of American cars that we could afford would work with us. The foreign make’s dealership did, and both their product and their service have proven superior to any American competitors in our experience.

In a free economy, that’s how companies succeed, regardless of their nationality: By providing combinations of products, pricing, service and support that surpass those offered by the competition. Customers will typically respond as we did, buying the best and/or best-supported product that meets their needs within their range of affordability.

But in a controlled economy, the government interferes with this freedom in various ways. These include excessive regulation, taxation and litigation; price controls; and – under President Obama – outright takeover of segments of the economy, such as auto manufacturers, student loans, and health care. The result is inferior goods (think Volt and Obamacare), restricted liberty for the customer and producer, and damage to the economy.

My pro-union, buy-American friend is also an ardent, life-long Democrat. Yet the very Democrats for whom he votes consistently violate his concern for American jobs. Under their leadership in Washington, the nation has lost over two million jobs, and unemployment has remained more or less double the lows of the George W. Bush years. Under them, the economy remains fragile and stagnant, having barely recovered from a severe recession with potentially far worse to follow. Commerce, consumer confidence, and the dollar are all weak. How, precisely, do these consequences of his votes square with his concern for American jobs?

More to the point, he has been in construction his entire career. During the George W. Bush presidency, construction unemployment outside of the off-season peaks was usually in the 5% through 7% range. But, convinced that Republicans were killing construction jobs, he and many other construction workers voted Democrat in 2008 on the assumption that prosperity and jobs would instantly stream into his industry thanks to the promised “shovel-ready jobs.”

Under Democrat control of both the White House and both houses of Congress, working-season construction unemployment soared, ranging from a low of 16.5% in August 2009 to a scandalous high of 20.1% in May and June 2010. The off-season high was 27.1% in February, 2010.

More embarrassingly, the industry’s annual unemployment rate during the Bush years bottomed out at 6.7% in 2006 – the year the Democrats, with construction union backing, won control of the House and a tie in the Senate. It promptly rose to 10.8% in 2008. So the unions helped elect a Democrat president, under whom it nearly doubled to 19.0% in 2009, then climbed again to 20.6% for the year in 2010.

The 2011 industry average was down to 16.4%, and the lowest monthly rate was 13.1% – in November, when unemployment statistics as a whole were questioned because a marked drop was due largely to the elimination of a third of a million people, including construction workers, from the labor pool when their unemployment benefits expired. Save jobs? Not this bunch.

These Democrats also believe in redistributing wealth from the haves to the have-nots. All right, then: How about the “Buy America” union people who voted for them redistributing their own cash to those of us who aren’t paid as well as they, so we too can afford more expensive American products? Any takers on that bit of redistribution? I thought not.

The American vehicles my construction friends like to drive are gas hogs compared to my import. Does it occur to these folks that the gas their trucks burn so prodigiously originates largely in decidedly non-union, non-American sources overseas, thanks in no small part to their Democrats throttling American oil development? That their President opposes an building a job-creating, price-dropping oil pipeline from Canada?

And how does the tyranny associated with unions, if at times unfairly, square with patriotism? Are mandatory payment of union dues, forced association and intimidation of non-union workers and employers truly fruits of liberty?

Who, in the end, is more patriotic in deeds? One who habitually votes for politicians whose policies have undeniably damaged the economy and restricted our freedom? Or one who drives an imported car by out of economic necessity while striving to oppose them?

It's Right. It's Free.