Byron Dorgan, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, blasted the Washington Post editorial board as "absolutely absurd" Thursday for its objection to the 'Buy American' provision of the stimulus package.
"'Buy American' sounds patriotic, but paying more than necessary for steel diverts resources that could create jobs in other industries. Worse, it raises the prospect of retaliation against American exporters by U.S. trading partners," opined the Post.
"The Washington Post, as is their usual trademark, suggested this is protectionist," said North Dakota's Dorgan. "We're a country with a 700 billion dollar trade deficit. It's absurd for somebody to suggest we're protectionist. It's absolutely absurd. They must not have understood that we've got about a $2 billion dollar a day deficit in trade. That's hardly protectionist."
The Post warned that the provision -- which is strongly opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations that represent multinational corporations -- could start a trade war.
"The United States started one such trade war in 1930, when it enacted a tariff increase that prompted European retaliation -- thus helping turn a bad recession into the Great Depression. Better to learn from this history than to repeat it," offered the editors.
"You mean like the French wanting to make sure that their stimulus promotes jobs in France? Well, that's what the French are doing," responded Dorgan.
"On an emergency basis, since when has it become inappropriate for countries to care about whether what they're doing is creating jobs inside their country? I mean, that's a Byzantine proposition fostered by the editorial writers and a few multinational companies that don't necessarily have any interest in creating jobs here."
Dorgan predicted that the 'Buy American' provision, which requires companies to use American materials when possible, would remain in the stimulus bill.