Table d'hote: As the global economy crumbles

Wade McIntyre
Wade McIntyre

Over the years, I’ve made several trips to Disneyland in Anaheim and pretty much can find my way around the place blindfolded.

The caricature ride through the attraction called “It’s a Small World” especially impressed me on my first trip.

Disney’s kiddy ride reinforced for me a fondness of all cultures and the bond of oneness that humans share with each other. Despite the dichotomies and schisms that split societies and races apart on the world scene, we all have common, basic fundamental beliefs. As Sting reminded us in song, the Russians love their children, too.

Unfortunately, Disney’s amusement park ride is no more a true picture of world cultures than a Hollywood western is accurate about America.

With the global economy crumbling before our eyes, the happy, small world attraction that celebrates the duality of human uniqueness and commonality seems like a dated cartoon.

The global world is contracting on an economic level, and countries are hunkering down in an ugly  protectionism frenzy. Leading the wave is the United States where imports have fallen around 15 percent for nearly five consecutive quarters. American consumers are still livid with distrust over Chinese imports, and the disdain has spread to imports from other nations.

Japan prospered for many years catering to the automotive and electronic tastes of American buyers. Consumers are indebted to the Japanese for building and introducing quality automobiles to the marketplace when U.S. manufacturers refused to do so. Yet Japanese growth is now threatened by the decline of purchases by Americans.

Most Americans understand imports are one of the keys to a successful 21st century marketplace, but they also know that buying local and domestic helps American workers when jobs are at stake.

Now, proposed “Buy American” provisions in the government stimulus package will reinforce what consumers have already shown they want - more American-made manufactured goods and foods, less imports.

Unfortunately, other nations will strike back by imposing retaliatory tariffs on American goods such as beef and chicken, and the jobs in America dependent on a healthy import/export ratio will begin evaporating.

Take for instance the Louisiana company employing 240 workers in New Iberia that manufactures Tabasco and exports to 160 countries around the world. Suppose France reacts to the planned U.S. tariff on Roquefort cheese by slapping a fee on Tabasco imports. Suppose that causes French consumers to purchases local brands of hot sauce, putting a dent in Tabasco sales. What if Japan, which is the world’s biggest consumer of Tabasco outside the U.S., decides to follow suit?

Most countries who import Tabasco sell quality domestic hot sauces and would have little to lose by slapping a protectionism tariff on America’s gourmet hot stuff.

Americans who believe they will not suffer from turning their backs on friends in other countries with whom they trade are in for a surprise. Protectionism among friends does not work. The world is too small to get away with it.