By Tim Burrack: Arlington, Iowa
Radio talk-show host Mark Levin says he’s for free trade—but he also opposes the biggest free-trade agreement in a generation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With free traders like him, who needs protectionists?
I’m a longtime listener of The Mark Levin Show. Many of us admirers use a nickname for him: “The Great One.” I’ve read his books. I share many of his concerns about the dangers that threaten our country.
Yet I also wish I could talk to him for five minutes. Even if I couldn’t persuade Mark that TPP is good for the United States, I’d jump at the chance to tell his audience.
Last week I tried. I was driving a combine through my cornfields here in Iowa, listening to his show and bringing in the harvest that helps my family make ends meet. About one-third of all the corn we grow in this country ships abroad, so we rely on foreign customers.
Mark launched into a rant about TPP. He complained about its length, claimed that nobody will read it, and argued that it would empower bureaucrats.
So I picked up my cell phone and called, direct from my export-dependent cornfields.
“Mr. Call Screener” picked up. I told him who I was and what I wanted to discuss. “I’m going to put you on,” he promised. Then he put me on hold.
About 30 seconds later, he returned and said that Mark planned to change topics. We ended the call.
But I kept listening. Here’s the funny thing: Mark didn’t change topics. He continued to rip into TPP. But now, it seemed, he was trying to talk to me.
“My point isn’t to upset farmers,” he said. “I believe in exports. I believe in a lot of exports.” (Those were his exact words—I’ve checked the “audio rewind” section of his website.)
What an odd way of showing it. By opposing TPP, Mark finds himself on the same side as Democratic presidential candidate and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, leftist senator Elizabeth Warren, and just about every Big Labor boss in the land.
I may not have had a chance to go on Mark’s show, but here’s what I would have said.
TPP is good for the United States because it lowers tariffs on more than 18,000 made-in-America products. Exports already support nearly 12 million U.S. jobs—and the more we sell to the Australians, Chileans, and Malaysians, the more prosperity we’ll enjoy at home.
Farmers in the American heartland like me will have better opportunities to sell what we grow. Agricultural trade is notoriously difficult to negotiate, as any diplomat who has tried will acknowledge.
Yet TPP accomplishes something that many so-called experts thought was impossible: It helps us break into Japan’s closed market. Japan’s beef tariff, for example, can soar as high as 50 percent. TPP lowers it to just 9 percent and wipes out tariffs entirely on many other agricultural products, including apples, cherries, French fries, peanuts, and poultry.
This is an excellent result.
Mark grumbles that TPP is objectionable because it runs for thousands of pages. He says it should be about three pages in length.
That’s a nice thought, but also unrealistic—as anybody who has ever bought a house must know. These real-estate transactions go on for page after mind-numbing page. It can take half an hour just to initial and sign in all the right places.
TPP is the same way, except that it’s much more complicated than the sale of a home. It involves a dozen countries with a combined population of about 800 million people. It took years to negotiate. It’s politically sensitive because it seeks to eliminate the special-interest protectionism that crony capitalists love.
So yeah, it takes a lot of pages.
Mark prefers a three-page TPP that exists only in his imagination. The rest of us are looking at a free-trade agreement that exists in fact.
The political choice is clear: We can support TPP, opening foreign markets and allowing Americans like me to compete in them, or we can reject TPP, isolating ourselves from the global economy and invigorating the anti-trade mob.
This is no choice at all. That’s why I’m for TPP.
One more thing: If Mark wants to have a farmer on his show, I’d be happy to call again.
Tim Burrack raises corn, soybeans and pork on a NE Iowa family farm. He serves as Vice-Chairman and volunteers as a Board Member of Truth About Trade & Technology / Global Farmer Network (www.truthabouttrade.org).