Jeremiah and economic nationalism

Feb 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: International

If there were a prize for the most over-the-top comment on the arrival of the new United States president, it would have to be awarded to last Friday’s Church Times.

The new administration in Washington is on a pilgrimage, and has said so in eloquent words. The world is at its worst, and in biblical terms: the Gaza massacre, toppling Mammon, melting nature. The youthful Jeremiah in the White House cries to the nation at large, “Get going! Don’t leave it all to me.” An audacious order, as he confessed.

A new Jeremiah?  Perhaps it depends on your perceptions of the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was certainly a man of integrity, had he written an election manifesto, we would have adhered to every letter of it.

Remember what Obama said in the manifesto?

End Tax Breaks for Companies that Send Jobs Overseas: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that companies should not get billions of dollars in tax deductions for moving their operations overseas. Obama and Biden will also fight to ensure that public contracts are awarded to companies that are committed to American workers.

It seems odd, then, that when Obama keeps his promise to protect US jobs, the European Union and Canada, where many politicians were in raptures about Obama’s election, should suddenly emit howls of protest.  RTE news reports:

The European Union and Canada have ratcheted up pressure against US President Barack Obama’s Buy American stimulus plan, sending letters to the White House and Congress in protest.

The EU ambassador to Washington, John Bruton, said he had written yesterday to the leaders of Congress and the Obama administration expressing concerns about government legislation to restrict procurement to American goods, including steel and textiles.

‘We regard this legislation as setting a very dangerous precedent at a time when the world is facing a global economic crisis,’ Mr Bruton said.

The Senate is considering a massive stimulus plan that restricts stimulus-funded infrastructure projects to use only US manufactured goods.   The House of Representatives last week approved an $819 billion stimulus bill with a more narrow Buy American restriction to US iron and steel.  Mr Bruton said the Buy American provision, if signed into law, could spur other countries to set up protectionist barriers and ultimately cost US jobs.  He recalled that the Group of 20 developed and developing countries, at a November emergency summit in Washington called to confront the financial crisis, had pledged to resist protectionism.

‘More important is the confidence effect,’ he said, as people around the world are looking to world leaders to steer the economy out of crisis.

Mr Bruton said he had received no response to the letters he had sent to the White House and the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate.

‘But surely’, the prophet might reply, ‘isn’t this what I said would happen? Did you not welcome me when I came among you saying these things?’

Maybe the incumbent of the White House is not a youthful Jeremiah, but a mere mortal mired in the gritty reality of international politics.  Maybe Christian writers, of all people, should be aware of the tendency to sinfulness inherent in all humanity.

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  1. It’s a worry for resource providers like Australia. We’ve already lost a huge chunk of the Chinese market. We have a ‘buy Australian’ policy here but it’s simply not economically viable for many. Protectionism will only lead to elevated prices in the US and that will see this new Jeremiah voted out of office toot sweet if he goes overboard.

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