This week, Gov. Paul LePage has been busy doing his job, going on a trade mission to China in an attempt to attract more jobs to Maine. These types of trade missions are common for governors and have a rich bipartisan tradition not only in Maine, but across the country. At this level of business, it is vital for CEOs to have direct personal contact with our governor, whether they’re headquartered in Shanghai or Charlotte. For the first time, we have a serious candidate for governor who — even if he did continue these vital trips — would completely undermine them just by virtue of his record: Mike Michaud.
Throughout his time in Congress, Michaud has been known for one thing (if, indeed, a member of the Obscure Caucus can be known for anything): his stance on trade. Unlike so many other issues, it hasn’t been an area where he’s flip-flopped, either recently or over the course of his career. He’s consistently opposed free trade agreements and argued for protectionist stances. This puts him in direct opposition to President Obama, who — like presidents of both parties for the past 30 years — has pushed for expanded free trade.
There are good reasons for this: free trade is, ultimately, good for the U.S. As long as other countries play by the rules, free trade expands the market for our goods and services. By expanding the market, free trade grows our economy and creates jobs.
When it’s done correctly, free trade not only grows the U.S. economy, but those of our trading partners, as well. More international trade helps raise the standard of living all over the world, and this increases the likelihood of a country being peaceful, democratic, and stable — also in the interest of the United States.
Protectionism is not only bad for our economy in the long-term. Any benefits felt by it are likely to be fleeting, at best. Industries that can’t compete internationally won’t be saved by protectionism; it will only stave off the inevitable. When protectionist trade policies are put in place other countries follow suit. This reduction in international trade would cause a contraction in the global economy, which might even hasten the collapse of the industries the protectionists were trying to save.
Economists, heads of state, and CEOs all understand this. So having a governor who opposes free trade, like Michaud, would make the type of trade trips LePage was on this week all but impossible.
It’s no surprise, then, that as LePage was on his trade trip, Michaud was sending out invitations for a swanky D.C. fundraiser featuring House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Pelosi (with whom Michaud has voted 93 percent of the time) has fought President Obama on free trade, coming out earlier this year against giving him fast-track authority.
This would commit Congress to a straight up-or-down vote on any free trade agreement the president negotiated. So, we are to believe the woman who once told the American public that we would have to pass Obamacare to know what’s in it is suddenly concerned about the process? Or is it that she simply opposes the agreement itself, but doesn’t want to admit it because the president is a Democrat?
This is the company that Michaud keeps in Congress. With that kind of history, it would be difficult for Michaud as governor to get business leaders to even listen to his pitch, let alone take him seriously — and that would be bad for Maine’s economy. We need a governor who understands the importance of international trade for businesses large and small all over the state, not one with shortsighted, antiquated views of economics.