Media Mostly Ignore Stimulus's 'Buy American' Depression Precedent

The stimulus package being discussed on Capitol Hill contains a "Buy American" provision that smells a tad like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which most economists believe turned a bad recession into the Great Depression.

Despite such overtones, press members on this side of the Atlantic have mostly failed to make this connection, or, at the very least, chosen not to share it with their readers or viewers.

In fact, with the exception of Fox News, a LexisNexis search identified not one television outlet addressing the matter.

Yet, overseas, our trading partners are indeed worried about this as evidenced by Tuesday's BBC report:

The EU has increased its pressure on the US to reconsider the "Buy American" clause in the $800bn (£567bn) economic recovery package now before Congress.

The clause seeks to ensure that only US iron, steel and manufactured goods are used in projects funded by the bill.

A European Commission spokesman said it was the "worst possible signal" the Obama administration could send out.

Scary stuff wouldn't you agree? But it gets worse:

The EU and Canadian ambassadors to Washington have already warned that the clause could promote protectionism and trigger retaliatory moves. [...]

EU Ambassador to Washington John Bruton said that, if passed, the measure could erode global leadership on free trade.

"We regard this legislation as setting a very dangerous precedent at a time when the world is facing a global economic crisis."

Canada's ambassador to Washington warned Senate leaders that if Buy American was in the final legislation, it would set a negative precedent with global repercussions.

"The United States will lose the moral authority to pressure others not to introduce protectionist policies," Michael Wilson wrote in a letter to the senators. [...]

"These protectionist measures, in a time of recession, only make things worse," he told broadcaster CBC.

"It can only trigger retaliatory action and we don't want to go there."

Sound like 1930 all over again?

For those unfamiliar, in response to a deepening recession, President Herbert Hoover enacted the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act which raised to record levels fees on 20,000 imported goods. 

In retaliation, countries around the globe imposed new tariffs of their own, and the world slipped into the Depression.

Although tariffs aren't being proposed yet, it is clear that our international trading partners are displeased by the "Buy American" talk in our stimulus bill, and this could evoke trade tensions at a time when nobody can afford it.

Complicating matters are candidate Obama's positions concerning NAFTA and other trade pacts which clearly indicated his isolationist tendencies.

Although this went largely unreported during the campaign -- along with most things that Americans might have found displeasing about the candidate -- it does seem imperative for media members to be divulging all aspects of the current stimulus package so that citizens can decide whether or not they support it.

Shamefully, this matter has gone almost completely ignored on television with CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC, according to a LexisNexis search, not sharing the Depression catalyst overtones with their viewers.

As for print, the New York Times published one article on this subject so far: a 482-word op-ed on Sunday's page 11. USA Today penned a 486-word editorial about the matter Monday. The Washington Post offered an 896-word piece by columnist Colbert I. King Saturday.

And that's it.

Doesn't this lack of attention strike one as odd given all the media talk about this being the worst recession since World War II?

If that's indeed the case -- and the jury is clearly still out!!! -- shouldn't so-called journalists be advising the nation when economic proposals have any similarity to failed policies in the past?

*****Update: LexisNexis search may not have identified February 2 broadcasts.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.