Two hypocrites are running for Senate in Indiana. Protectionist hysteria has both the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Joe Donnelly, and the Republican challenger, businessman Mike Braun, saying and doing increasingly idiotic things about trade.
Global markets made both men rich. Now each is condemning the other for doing business overseas.
Republicans knocked Donnelly after the AP reported on an rubber stamp factory his family operates in Mexico. The senator recently divested from the business, Stewart Superior Corp, which his brother operates, but not before Republicans could nickname him “Mexico Joe.”
They even hired an authentic Mariachi band to crash his campaign kickoff in August of 2017.
It worked as a political attack because Donnelly has bashed outsourcing and foreign trade from day one. Ahead of the presidential election in 2016, for instance, the senator sounded downright Trumpy when he criticized Indiana-based heating and air-conditioning company, Carrier, for sending jobs across the border.
“What you’re seeing with Carrier is what I call free riders,” Donnelly told the Indiana political news website The Statehouse File in August 2016. “What they do because of the trade agreement NAFTA, is they ship jobs to Mexico for $3 an hour, and so they get the benefit of the absolute lowest wages they can find, and then turn around to ship the products back into the United States.”
Which is funny because that is exactly what the Donnelly family business did and continues to do. Produce a product with the cheap labor in order to sell it to consumers at the most competitive price possible. Best business practices don’t make for good optics. A second AP investigation recently detailed the company’s extensive ties in China.
Braun isn’t immune either. Democrats have dug through the supply chain of his auto parts distribution company, Myer’s Distributing, and his own automotive brand, Promaxx Automotive. Turns out, Braun doesn’t just distribute products from China. It appears that Braun actually manufactures products overseas. When the AP ordered a wrench from Promaxx Automotive, it arrived with the words “made in China” stamped on the packaging.
Democrats haven’t let this go to waste. They show up at Braun events waiving Chinese flags, they send him those same flags in the mail, and they make a show of sending him official correspondence written in Chinese. It is all pretty clever because Braun won the primary by accusing his opponents of putting “Mexico before Muncie” and bowing to “Beijing before Bloomington.”
Both candidates squirm and shrivel when asked to explain their business dealings. But they shouldn’t. International trade is good for the country, strengthening American companies and ensuring American consumers got the best goods at the best prices possible. It also made both of these men rich. They couldn’t have stayed in business doing it any other way.
The rubber stamps made by the Donnelly family business are not luxury goods. Neither are the running boards and the truck bed liners distributed by the Braun business. It is possible, in theory, to manufacture all of these products in the United States all the time. It would also be prohibitively expensive. Rather than contorting themselves into impossible positions, Donnelly and Braun should just own up to the fact that free trade is a good thing.