Politics

Marc Caputo: Not capitalist or Christian, China loves Christmas

 

mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

Happy birthday, Jesus!

Love, China.

For a country that persecutes Christians, China sure profits from Christmas.

So China’s “one-child” policy has led to forced abortions? Well, those nativity sets celebrating a child the state wanted to kill two millennia ago are under $20 at your local store.

“Made in China” is everywhere on the shelves. But it’s nowhere in our political discourse right now.

Contrast that with all the political talk this entire year about the ills of China.

Just after the New Year, Florida airwaves were flooded with deceptive political ads that bashed Republican Newt Gingrich for once backing a bill “supporting China’s brutal one-child policy.”

Mitt Romney, the beneficiary of the attack ads, went on to win Florida’s Jan. 31 primary a few weeks after raising the China-abortion issue at a debate.

A month later, President Obama mentioned China during a Coral Gables fundraiser where he fretted about “shipping jobs overseas.”

“I don’t want this nation to be known just for buying and consuming things,” the president said.

But Obama didn’t talk much about that by the end of the month after his election.

By then, economists, politicians and the news media turned to “Black Friday” holiday shopping and the need for our consumer economy to consume.

Now the so-called “fiscal cliff” occupies the political debate over income tax rates vs. government-spending cuts. There’s no real discussion about trade policy or even import tariffs, which were gradually replaced as the federal government’s cash cow with the rise of the income tax a century ago.

There’s no talk about China. That’s partly because we have such a complicated and conflicted relationship with China.

It’s a study in irony. An atheist political party runs a government fueled by factories that excel at making religious tchotchkes and other wares. It’s a nominally communist nation, but it owns some of our capitalist country’s debt and is beating us in commerce.

The fear of China was effectively captured in an ad run by the conservative group Citizens Against Government Waste in 2010 and 2012. In the spot, a Chinese professor lectures a future class in Mandarin about the decline of the United States.

The group doesn’t disclose its donors, although a big share of contributions to political parties and campaigns come from the captains of industry and finance, some of whom profit handsomely from trade with China.

China is also Florida’s third-largest port-trading partner behind Colombia (2) and Brazil (1).

Florida, which never had a real manufacturing base, has 14 deepwater ports that rely on what’s called “free trade.”

Together, the Florida ports moved nearly $84 billion worth of goods from around the globe last year, an increase of nearly 19 percent, according to a winter 2012 report from the Florida Ports Council.

That helps the state’s economy.

But China came out on top.

“Florida’s largest deficit again was with China,” the report noted, “importing almost $8 in goods for each dollar it exported, resulting in a $6.4 billion deficit.”

Judging by the Toys-R-Us shelves, that trend will continue in Florida and nationwide as our economy struggles.

Meantime, Christmas-season toy-makers in China are often underpaid, paid late and forced to work in hazardous conditions with limited access to restrooms, according to an investigative report last year by The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom.

It seemed little had changed since Romney’s old “private equity days,” which he described to a group of donors at a secretly recorded Boca Raton fundraiser in May.

Romney said he went to China to buy a factory that employed 20,000 workers, mostly young women, and he seemed amazed at “the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with little bathrooms at the end with maybe ten rooms. And the rooms: they had 12 girls per room, three bunk beds on top of each other.”

This is why that Barbie or Blu-ray player is cheaper when it’s made in China.

And that’s a reason (among many, no doubt) that some Americans can’t find work.

And that’s a reason (among many, no doubt) they get public-assistance.

And that’s a reason (among many, no doubt) we have deficits and debt, which exceeds $16 trillion.

Of that, China owns about 8 percent.

During the presidential campaign, Romney surrogate and actor Clint Eastwood cut an ad falsely suggesting that China owns “much” of our debt, and he laid some blame at Obama’s feet.

Nowadays, to the degree it’s political news, conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly and his ilk spend a relatively inordinate amount of time talking about a phony “war on Christmas.”

If there is a war, it’s waged by nations like China. And we help underwrite it.

After all, Santa’s workshop has been outsourced to a sweatshop in Shenzhen or Dongguan.

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