Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 5:00 pm | Fair 61º


David Sirota: Gold Medalists in Fake Outrage

Even as lawmakers criticize Team USA's China-made uniforms, they support the tariff-free trade policies that ripped apart the domestic textile industry

Fake outrage is a little like pornography — hard to narrowly define, but you know it when you see it.

It is the television pundit railing on the supposed “War on Christmas” or the radio host calling a woman a “slut” for the alleged crime of discussing contraception. It is the Democratic partisan pretending to be offended by John McCain’s expensive shoes, or the Republican partisan taking umbrage at President Barack Obama for daring to repeat the truism that “if you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” And when it comes to the 2012 Olympics, it is the typical congressional leader criticizing American athletes’ uniforms for being made in China.

This has been the big story in the lead-up to the games, as top lawmakers from both parties are pretending to be upset that Team USA’s clothing was manufactured far away from home. The operative word, though, is “pretending.”

A look at the record shows that many of these lawmakers supported (and continue to support) the tariff-free trade policies that eviscerated the domestic textile industry — aka the industry that should be making the uniforms. And yet, these same lawmakers preen before the cameras, clad in suits made in factories their votes helped offshore. Gold medalists in fake outrage, they breast beat about jobs and American pride, correctly betting that few reporters will highlight their phony indignation’s inherent deceit.

Of course, while Washington’s purported outrage over the uniforms is entirely fake, the underlying questions about offshoring and domestically sourced products are very real — and very troubling.

Since the mid-1990s, when multinational corporations began convincing both parties to vaporize the trade and tariff policies that built this nation’s economy, the United States has lost almost 1,300 textile mills, according to the National Council of Textile Organizations. In just the five years between 2004 and 2009, the NCTO estimates that those factory closures have translated into a net loss of a quarter-million textile and apparel jobs — or more than a third of the industry’s entire U.S. workforce.

The predictable result is what ABC News reported in 2011: “As we searched far and wide across this country for American-made products, we found one industry particularly difficult to locate. Where can we find fabrics made in the United States? According to business owners, it’s almost impossible to create textiles from start to finish with 100 percent American-made materials.” Hence, the American Olympic team’s Chinese-made uniforms.

Such a galling reality was not a predetermined inevitability — it was not, as free trade triumphalists insist, merely the “invisible hand” of economic “progress.” It was instead the deliberate result of trade deals supported by both parties — trade deals that reduced the tariffs that used to financially discourage companies from trying to profit off of exploitation and oppression. Sans such levies, our trade pacts now encourage companies to cut costs not through technical efficiencies or innovation but by simply moving production to countries that tolerate poverty wages and sweatshop conditions.

You know these bipartisan pacts by infamous alphabet-soup acronyms such as NAFTA, China PNTR, CAFTA, and, potentially, TPP. That last one, the so-called “Trans Pacific Partnership” with Pacific Rim countries, is particularly relevant because it is being finalized right now. Should it eschew domestic production incentives, NCTO predicts it will “cause the catastrophic loss of textile and apparel jobs in the United States.”

No doubt, many lawmakers planning to support that kind of TPP are the same ones criticizing the Olympic uniforms. They expect their fake outrage to garner all of the attention. But if you peruse their votes, you will know what the real outrage is — and you should take that outrage to the polls in November.

David Sirota is the best-selling author of the new book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now and blogs at OpenLeft.com. Click here for more information. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him on Twitter: @davidsirota.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >