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An address by Lou Dobbs to the 36th Grand Lodge Convention of the International Association of machinists & Aerospace Workers Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Thank you very much. It's a great pleasure to be with you. Thank you for that wonderful welcome.

I wanted to be here this morning in part just simply to say to you in the midst of a presidential campaign, in the midst of one of the most difficult economic recoveries that this country has experienced three years after the end of a recession, that there are many people who understand the plight that faces working men and women in this country.

It is incumbent upon me, I think, to offer you some words of optimism, of hope and some considerable confidence in this country; and I am going to do that, if I may.

But first, I want to say to you that there is no dress rehearsal here. These are real bullets that are being fired, obviously, in Iraq; and a thousand Americans now and more have died. More than 7,000 Americans have been wounded.

We are pursuing policies in this country that we must examine and which must be critically debated by our presidential candidates.

We owe first a great debt to those young men and women in uniform who are pursuing the policies of the United States government; and if you would, honor them.

When I speak on a nightly broadcast, it is the easiest thing that I've ever done in my career because I am simply speaking the truth.

And most concerning and troubling to me are the tens of thousands of e-mails that I receive from viewers who say, "Thank you for your courage and your bravery." Nothing gives me greater pause, little saddens me more because when we have reached a state in this country in which anyone is credited with bravery or courage for simply speaking his or her mind, we are in a very, very perilous moment in this country's history.

My colleagues and I in the national media deserve your examination and I think also your profound criticism for too often being tepid in our response to straightforward facts and to issues that are both important and that should be galvanizing the American people.

Amongst them, the issues are obviously Iraq, the war on radical Islamist terror and also our trade policies and the practice of outsourcing American jobs.

I've had the privilege of meeting a number of your members and many of your leaders backstage. We were also talking about the important issue of offsets in which not only jobs are being transferred to cheap foreign labor markets; but our basic fundamental intellectual capital, our knowledge, is being simply exported and often at the highest possible cost -- not price -- for this country.

Our elected officials – and, ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you they are both elected officials from both the Democratic Party and Republican Party -- are sitting by idly and not engaging on these issues.

We have a White House today that has accused me of being a protectionist and an economic isolationist. I am neither.

But I am absolutely certain of one thing, that unless we create new international trade policies, we are set on a path of destruction for the American middle class.

You meeting in convention here to determine your organization's business and the way you will proceed toward the future is critically important; but if I may suggest, with all respect and humility, what you do when you leave here is critically important.

As I cover the daily news and the events and the issues that are shaping our times, I notice a great vacuum that exists in our communities. We are discussing great global issues. We are engaged in great global enterprises and conflicts; but we live at home. We live in those communities; the schools that need our attention; the city halls that desperately need our participation.

I would urge you, every friend you have, every colleague, every family member to begin that engagement now. Every elected official in this country, in my humble judgment, should not receive anyone's vote until we know where the middle class, the working man and woman in this country, rests in his or her political agenda.

Perhaps because I'm a Texan, I've always thought one should go into any battle with joy in his or her heart, ready to let the winner take all. I try to remind myself to keep joy in my heart, but it's tough these days because there's so much pain. There is too much suffering simply because of failed trade policies, because of failed international trade agreements and elected officials who refuse to see the truth and the result of the policies that have simply not worked.

Twenty-eight years of trade deficits, twenty-eight straight years. We are approaching a trade deficit this year of $600 billion. President Bush will likely be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs in this country in a four-year term.

It was only the '90s, you may recall, when this country created 22 million jobs. It's four years later, and suddenly American working men and women are being told they are stupid, they are lazy, they're unproductive and uncompetitive. That's been a hell of a four-year period.

And I don't believe for a moment that anyone with any responsibility for economic policy, public policy, certainly no one in the national media, should tolerate the facile, glib responses of the orthodoxy that has all of us in its grip. And that orthodoxy is composed of too much of academia, our elected officials from both parties, and certainly corporate America and big government.

That orthodoxy says that there are only two choices here: protectionism or free trade. Well, let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, what we are practicing is not free trade. We are not opening markets to American products and services. We are opening the richest consumer market in the world without any possible reciprocity to countries all around the world.

We have put our middle class in direct competition with Third World labor.

One does not have to be an economist to understand that the very American dream is under assault by these policies; and we simply have to alter those policies and now.

You will hear many in Washington say to you the answer is compensation, trade adjustment, retraining, or education; but I have not been able to receive an answer to one simple question from anyone on this issue. And the question is: "For what, then, will we train American workers?"

This is already the world's best trained and best-educated workforce; but workers in this country are not simply factors of production, no matter how much our policymakers would like it to be so.

We do something on my broadcast with regularity, a segment called “America Works,” in which we honor waitresses, bus drivers, jobs that some would be perhaps too quick to call menial labor. But I was taught that you honor work in all forms.

And honor it we do; but we don't necessarily, unfortunately, honor one another. As consumers, we've reached a point where 96 percent of all the clothing that we wear is imported. 96 percent.

You'll hear savants, elected officials, economists, talk about our dependence, and they will speak with alarm about our dependence on foreign oil. But we have a greater dependency on foreign components and electronics products and computers. We have a greater dependency on foreign labor and foreign countries for the very clothing we wear.

How did we get here? With some of the most misguided policies imaginable to mankind.

But remarkably, astonishingly, shockingly, the fact that our leaders in business and in government, and yes, many of them in labor, have not comprehended that this nation must have a foundation in manufacturing for the protection of the state itself, for our very nation, is mind-boggling.

The fact that record trade deficits, a $4 trillion trade debt, 28 years of consecutive trade deficits has not awakened the nation is absolutely mind-boggling. But we're beginning.

And one of the reasons I know the message is starting to get out is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable really don't like me.

I can handle that.

The White House is more than just a little annoyed with me.

Before you get too excited about that, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards may get a little annoyed with me before it's over because I don't think just changing tax policy is a sufficient response to the outsourcing of American jobs.

It is a time for us all to reflect, to think, to engage in a national debate and a local debate on that which matters. I've been fortunate enough, as have all of you, to be beneficiaries of the American free enterprise democracy in which we're all fortunate enough to be a part of. It is our responsibility to preserve it. If that makes me a protectionist, then you're going to have to underline protectionist because I mean to protect those traditional values and all that has made this country great.

The assault on our middle class has to end.

You and I are going to have to do a lot of searching deep in our hearts and souls because, in my judgment, the next year, perhaps two, are absolutely critical to the nation's future.

We can no longer tolerate the farce and the shame that is our international trade policy or lack of it. I had the opportunity to be the only journalist, American journalist to interview Premier Wen when he visited from China in December. He made it clear to me that what China wants is our highest technology. He made it clear that the Chinese have a plan that everything that we look upon when we travel to China, whether it's in Beijing or Shanghai, Guangdong, is the result of a 20-year plan.

I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that the American plan is not to plan. The American strategy is to have no strategy when it comes to trade and the direction of this country. You and I are denied an opportunity to vote on the most basic and fundamental and critical issues.

What shall this country look like in another 20 years? What will be the composition of our economy? What will be the minimum wage? What will be working conditions in this country? And will we, in fact, be forced to roll back our living standards to that of a Third World country in order to be, as too many economists and corporate CEOs say, to be efficient, productive and competitive.

Understand this: Efficiency, competitiveness and productivity that is being used now in global competition are simply code words for cheap labor.

Education is, as many apologists for our current trade policy suggests, critical. It is so critical that when you hear the word magnet school or charter school or vouchers, please, reject them out of hand because unless we --

Unless we reclaim public education, which is the treasurer of this country, which has made possible every one of us in this country who has aspired to be in the middle class and who has made it, we're forsaking the future for our children.

Public education is critical to our middle class, and we cannot accept a substitute. We have to reclaim public education in this country, and we cannot be distracted by magnets and charters and vouchers.

There's more work for you to do when you get home.

As you consider the trade policies that we have lived through, there's one thing I want to say, because we don't often get to honor somebody who has been steadfast, who has been right, and who has been ignored over time. I understand he was here yesterday, but Congressman Richard Gephardt, in my judgment has been right longer, has been passionate, has been absolutely prescient in international trade. Did I mention that he doesn't have charisma, and therefore, the national media didn't want to listen? Which is a sorry state of affairs in and of itself. I happen to think there's great charisma in honesty and integrity and insight.

I hope that people will be paying great attention to Dick Gephardt; because as one looks back over his career, and what he said going into NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, it's a remarkable record.

So with that said, I want to conclude with straight-forwardly telling you, I'm honored to be here. I'm grateful to be in the company of so many great Americans. I share your concerns, your values, and your aspirations for this country.

There are millions of folks just like us, and we've really got to go to work to make certain that those aspirations are realized not only for working men and women in this generation of Americans, but for all time.

It is too critical, it is too important not to be fully engaged. I would like to say to you, in conclusion, one of my favorite philosophers is a fellow by the name of Paul Valerie, he's a Frenchman. Forgive me that.

Nah, let's go with Yogi Berra.

He said it better anyway. Yogi said, "The future ain't what it was."

It's not often that you see in combination a great baseball player and a great thinker.

When you hear free trade, let's all agree it isn't, because markets are not being opened to American products, goods and services. And we're running a 28th consecutive year of deficits.

When you hear code words like efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness, understand they're code words for cheap labor. When you hear you're an economic isolationist, or a protectionist and you should be a free trader, understand clearly that somebody forgot a whole wide range of other options in between those polar extremes.

The American way is perfectly workable. Balanced, reciprocal mutual trade will ensure prosperity for all of us and our trading partners. And when you hear somebody say laissez faire, talking about economic policies, understand what they're saying is c'est la vie.

The products that you and the membership of this union, for more than a century, have built in this country were not built on a philosophy of c'est la vie. They weren't built on a policy of laissez faire. They were built by men and women who believed that they could not only shape and create products, but who could shape and create a nation.

When people tell you it is time to forsake our destiny and to take hands off on public policy, which we critically need to drive our future, please tell them to go to hell.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Submitted to the
IAM 36th Grand
Lodge Convention

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