Who Killed the Middle Class?

American Jobs

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”

So said Barack Obama in his State of the Union.

And for one of his ideas to reignite that engine, Republicans applauded.

“And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”

One wonders if any of those in the hall who rose robotically at the phrase “free and fair” were aware of the trade results just in from 2012.

What were the 2012 figures for the European Union?

U.S. exports to Europe fell, imports from Europe rose, and our trade deficit with the EU shot up 16 percent to $116 billion.

We ran a trade deficit with Italy of $20 billion, with Ireland of $25 billion, with Germany of $60 billion. The Europeans are eating our lunch.

What about South Korea, the country with whom we signed a free-trade deal in 2012?

U.S. exports to Korea fell last year, and due to a surge in imports our trade deficit in goods with South Korea soared 25 percent to $16.6 billion.

Seoul’s trade minister who cut that deal and cleaned our clock should get a medal and the kind of bonus Americans reserve for people like hedge fund managers and the folks who ran Fannie and Freddie.

And Japan? Last year, Nippon ran a $76 billion trade surplus with the United States, second largest of any country.

But that is insufficient for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has bullied the Bank of Japan to drive down the yen 20 percent against the dollar in three months — to increase exports to America and cut imports.

Look for the U.S. trade deficit with Tokyo to explode.

What about that NAFTA treaty the establishments of both parties heralded in the Clinton era? How has that worked out for Uncle Sam?

Last year, the United States ran a trade deficit of $32 billion with Canada and twice that, $61 billion, with Mexico.

What was America’s overall trade position in 2012?

We ran a global trade deficit in goods of $736 billion. That is 5 percent of the U.S. economy. We are hemorrhaging jobs, factories, wealth.

In banking, consulting, lawyering — i.e., services — we had a nice surplus. That’s what we Americans do now.

Since Bush 1, when some of us began to argue loudly that a mindless ideological pursuit of free trade would imperil America’s industrial base, the total of U.S. trade deficits in goods with the world is approaching $10 trillion — 10 thousand billion dollars!

Might this humongous dumping of foreign goods into the U.S.A., killing our factories, and the liberation of our transnational elite to close plants, outsource production, and bring foreign-made goods back free of charge into the U.S. market, have had something to do with killing the middle class?

The U.S. median income stopped growing in the mid-1970s, the same time we began to run 40 straight years of ever-expanding trade deficits.

And how are we doing with China?

Well, if one reads the weekend Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9-10, on page A3 in the lower left-hand corner is a box with a story headlined, “Trade Gap Shrinks 21 Percent as Oil Imports Decline.”

A positive headline, but about December only. In the 10th paragraph, however, was this tiny item: “Although the trade deficit with China narrowed 15.5 percent in December … the year-long deficit grew to a record.”

“Grew to a record”? What did that mean?

Elsewhere, one learns that the U.S. trade deficit in goods with China was not only an all-time record, but the largest between any two nations in the history of the world — $315 billion.

China now exports 6.3 times as much in manufactured goods to the United States, $417 billion’s worth, as we export to China.

Over two decades, Republicans in the lead, America granted Beijing most favored nation status, then permanent normal trade relations. Then we squired Beijing into the World Trade Organization.

And since the courtship began, the trade surpluses China has run with the United States have enriched, empowered and emboldened her so that, today, brimming with ethnonational arrogance, China has laid claim to all the islands in the South and East China seas and is telling the U.S. Navy to stay out of the Yellow Sea and Formosa Strait.

And the free-trade fanatics responsible for building up this Asian colossus challenging us in the Pacific now tell us we must “pivot” — i.e., shift — our planes, ships and troops out of Europe and the Mideast to Asia and the Western Pacific to contain the mighty and mammoth power their stupidity created.

Every nation seems to understand what our baby boomers were never taught. A trade balance is a measure of national power that reliably identifies rising and falling nations.

The Fall of the House of Labor

Union Workers

By Patrick J. Buchanan

In 1958, Senate Minority Leader William Knowland, his eye on the 1960 GOP nomination coveted by fellow Californian Richard Nixon, went home and declared for governor.

Knowland’s plan: Ride to victory on the back of Proposition 18, the initiative to make right-to-work the law in the Golden Land. Prop. 18 was rejected 2 to 1. Knowland’s career was over, and the Republicans were decimated nationally for backing right-to-work.

Badly burned, the party for years ran away from the issue.

This history makes what happened in Michigan, cradle of the United Auto Workers, astonishing. A GOP legislature passed and Gov. Rick Snyder signed a right-to-work law as libertarian as any in Red State America.

The closed shop, where a worker must belong to the union before being hired, is dead. The union shop, where an individual must join the union once hired, is dead. The agency shop, where a worker cannot be made to join a union but can be required to pay dues if the union is the agent negotiating the contract for all workers, is dead.

Michigan just legislated the open shop.

And behind the blue-collar bellicosity in Lansing is this new reality. Non-union workers can now “free ride” on union contracts. This is close to a non-survivable wound for labor.

Workers who do not belong to unions will cease paying dues, and union members will begin quietly to quit and pocket their dues money.

Why pay dues if you don’t have to? Why contribute a dime to a union PAC if you don’t have to, or don’t like labor’s candidates?

Michigan workers are not going to suffer. They have simply been given the freedom to join or not join a union, to pay or not pay dues. And while wages in right-to-work states such as Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and Florida are slightly below those of other states, employment in right-to-work states is higher.

For these are the states where domestic and foreign investors look to site new plants. The BMW assembly plant is in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Volkswagen and Nissan plants in Tennessee. As Gov. Rick Perry boasts, Texas has been the biggest job creator in the Obama recession.

But union power is going to be circumscribed as non-union workers elect to free-ride and union members start resigning. And just as Michigan saw Indiana creating jobs after passing right-to-work, other states may observe Michigan and go forth and do likewise.

There are now 24 right-to-work states. But while these laws arrested the rise of the house of labor, there was an inevitability to its fall. Who are the collective killers? Like the murder on the Orient Express, just about everyone on the train.

First came automation. A third of U.S. workers were unionized in the 1950s. But with new technologies, we discovered we did not need so many men to dig coal, make steel or print newspapers. We did not need firemen riding in the cabs of diesel locomotives.

A second blow came with the postwar rise of Germany and Japan. Their plants and equipment were all newer than ours. Their wages were far lower, as they did not carry the burden of defending the Free World. Under our defense umbrella, they began to invade and capture our markets.

And Uncle Sam let them do it.

A third blow to Big Labor, concentrated in the Frost Belt, came from the Sun Belt. With air conditioning making summers tolerable, the South offered less expensive and more reliable labor than a North where union demands were constant and strikes common.

But the mortal blow to American unions came from globalization.

With the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China propelling hundreds of millions of new workers into the global hiring hall, U.S. multinationals saw historic opportunity.

If they could move factories out of the U.S.A., they would be free of union demands, wage-and-hour laws, occupational health and safety laws, environmental laws and civil rights law. By outsourcing, they could produce for a fraction of the cost of doing so in the U.S.A.

And if they could get the U.S. political class, in return for corporate generosity at election time, to let them bring their foreign-made goods back to the U.S.A., tax and tariff free, profits would explode, and salaries and bonuses with them.

The corporate establishment and political establishment shook hands, the deed was done, and the fate of U.S. industrial unions sealed. So came NAFTA, GATT, the World Trade Organization, MFN for China, free trade with all.

And with globalization came trade deficits unlike any the world had ever seen, a loss of one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs in the last decade, a U.S. dependence on foreign-made goods almost as great as in colonial days, the enrichment of our corporate and financial elites beyond the dreams of avarice, and the decline and fall of the house of labor.

Unions are dying because, in America, economic patriotism is dead.

Is the GOP Headed for the Boneyard?

Cemetary Gate

By Patrick J. Buchanan

After its second defeat at the hands of Barack Obama, under whom unemployment has never been lower than the day George W. Bush left office, the Republican Party has at last awakened to its existential crisis.

Eighteen states have voted Democratic in six straight elections. Among the six are four of our most populous: New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California. And Obama has now won two of the three remaining mega-states, Ohio and Florida, twice.

Only Texas remains secure—for now.

At the presidential level, the Republican Party is at death’s door.

Yet one already sees the same physicians writing prescriptions for the same drugs that have been killing the GOP since W’s dad got the smallest share of the vote by a Republican candidate since William Howard Taft in 1912.

In ascertaining the cause of the GOP‘s critical condition, let us use Occam’s razor—the principle that the simplest explanation is often the right one.

Would the GOP wipeout in those heavily Catholic, ethnic, socially conservative, blue-collar bastions of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, which Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan swept, have anything to do with the fact that the United States since 2000 has lost 6 million manufacturing jobs and 55,000 factories?

Where did all those jobs and factories go? We know where.

They were outsourced. And in the deindustrialization of America, the Republican Party has been a culpable co-conspirator.

Unlike family patriarch Sen. Prescott Bush, who voted with Barry Goldwater and Strom Thurmond against JFK’s free-trade deal, Bush I and II pumped for NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and opening America’s borders to all goods made by our new friends in the People’s Republic of China.

Swiftly, U.S. multinationals shut factories here, laid off workers, outsourced production to Asia and China, and brought their finished goods back, tax-free, to sell in the U.S.A.

Profits soared, as did the salaries of the outsourcing executives.

And their former workers? They headed for the service sector, along with their wives, to keep up on the mortgage payment, keep the kids in Catholic school and pay for the health insurance the family had lost.

Tuesday, these ex-Reagan Democrats came out to vote against some guy from Bain Capital they had been told in ads all summer was a big-time outsourcer who wrote in 2008, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt!”

Yes, the simplest explanation is often the right one.

Republicans are also falling all over one another to express a love of Hispanics, after Mitt won only 27 percent of a Hispanic vote that is now 10 percent of the national vote.

We face demographic disaster, they are wailing. We must win a larger share of the Hispanic vote or we are doomed.

And what is the proposed solution to the GOP‘s Hispanic problem, coming even from those supposedly on the realistic right?

Amnesty for the illegals! Stop talking about a border fence and self-deportation. Drop the employer sanctions. Make the GOP a welcoming party.

And what might be problematic about following this advice?

First, it will enrage populist conservatives who supported the GOP because they believed the party’s pledges to oppose amnesty, secure the border and stop illegals from taking jobs from Americans.

And in return for double-crossing these folks and losing their votes, what would be gained by amnesty for, say, 10 million illegal aliens?

Assume in a decade all 10 million became citizens and voted like the Hispanics, black folks and Asians already here. The best the GOP could expect—the Bush share in 2004—would be 40 percent, or 4 million of those votes.

But if Tuesday’s percentages held, Democrats would get not just 6 million, but 7 million new votes to the GOP‘s less than 3 million.

Thus, if we assume the percentages of the last three elections hold, the Democratic Party would eventually gain from an amnesty a net of between 2 and 4 million new voters.

Easy to understand why Democrats are for this. But why would a Republican Party that is not suicidally inclined favor it?

Still, the GOP crisis is not so much illegal as legal immigration. Forty million legal immigrants have arrived in recent decades. Some 85 percent come from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Most arrived lacking the academic, language and labor skills to compete for high-paying jobs.

What does government do for them?

Subsidizes their housing and provides free education for their kids from Head Start through K-12, plus food stamps and school lunches, Pell Grants and student loans for college, Medicaid if they are sick, earned income tax credits if they work and 99 weeks of unemployment checks if they lose their job.

These are people who depend upon government.

Why would they vote for a party that is going to cut taxes they do not pay, but take away government benefits they do receive?

Again it needs be said. When the country looks like California demographically, it will look like California politically. Republicans are not whistling past the graveyard. They are right at the entrance.

The Chickens of Globalization Come Home to Roost

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Mitt Romney is today the beneficiary of some desperate counsel from alarmed Republicans on how to escape the snare in which he has found himself.

Democrats are charging that Mitt was still chairman and CEO of Bain Capital between 1999 and 2002, when the company was advising some of America’s premier outsourcers.

The facts are in dispute. But the evidence seems on the side of the Romney camp — that Mitt did not run Bain after he went off to fix the Salt Lake City Olympics. Yet the matter raises a larger question.

What has the Republican Party got against outsourcing?

Does not the party establishment preach the gospel of free trade?

Did not the Republican Party come to the rescue of NAFTA and GATT when Bill Clinton cried for help in fighting off the wicked protectionists?

Did not the GOP foreign and economic policy elite endorse entry into a World Trade Organization where we have no veto and one vote?

The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers, all GOP allies, proclaim the right of U.S. corporations to move production out of America — to where taxes are lower, regulations lighter and labor cheaper.

When has any GOP platform ever laid the wood on a U.S. corporate behemoth like GE, Boeing or Apple that moved production abroad?

The GOP has long been a celebrant of the Global Economy and benefited mightily from the contributions of lobbyists and executives of companies that outsource.

Under GOP-blessed rules of free trade, these corporations are able to shutter plants here, move to Latin America or Asia, and produce there. Now they have the right to bring their China-made goods back to the United States, duty-free, and fill the malls of America with those goods.

As Republicans rightly argue, by cutting the cost of production by moving it abroad, companies can offer lower prices for those goods here at home. Soaring profits from those higher sales mean higher stock prices and dividends, not to mention seven- and eight-figure salaries for the corporate magicians who work such miracles.

But as Milton Friedman observed, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” And though Milton was its champion, free trade is no free lunch.

While there are winners from free trade, there are also losers.

First among them are high-wage U.S. factory workers whose plants are closed when production moves abroad. Next are factory workers who lose their jobs when foreign-made goods fill up the malls and the companies they work for, companies that stayed in the U.S.A., go under.

Was it a free lunch for the 6 million who lost manufacturing jobs in the last decade when 50,000 U.S. factories disappeared? Has it been a free lunch for the American worker who has not seen a pay raise in four decades?

And what of the nation?

For decades, America has been de-industrializing, with manufacturing shrinking as a share of gross domestic product to 11 percent, from over 30 percent in 1950. Not since before the Civil War have we been so dependent on foreign goods for the necessities of our national life, including the national defense. Our independence is a thing of yesterday.

This was the predicted and inevitable fruit of globalization.

Is this good for America?

Perhaps if one is a believing globalist. Then, whatever the result of globalization, whoever the winners and losers, that is what is best, for a globalized world is the best of all worlds.

This, of course, is not patriotism talking, or the voice of wisdom born of experience. It is a recitation from the globalist catchism.

When the history of American decline is written, the historians will zero in on a choice the nation made, when the interests of Middle America collided with those of Corporate America.

Decades ago, America’s great companies, having saturated the U.S. market, wanted to go out and capture the world’s markets.

Free to move production out of the U.S.A., they wanted to be able to bring their products back to the United States, duty-free. Make them there; sell them here. And if the U.S. companies were to be allowed to produce and to sell in foreign countries, those countries wanted the right to dump their goods in the U.S.A.

And here is where the national interest and the interests of Corporate America diverged. Here is where what was good for the boardroom elite collided with what was best for Middle America.

And this conflict could not be reconciled. The party had to choose. And the party chose K Street over Main Street.

Free trade, the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations, the Uruguay Round, the Doha Round, NAFTA, GATT, the WTO — what they all produced is a Magna Carta of the transnational corporation, which looks longingly to the end of nation-states and the arrival of world government.

Did the Republican songbirds of globalization not understand this?

What “Big Deals” Did to America

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Thanks to Tea Party fanatics, we are told, America just lost an historic opportunity to deal with her national debt.

Because of Tea Party intransigence and threats against their own leader John Boehner, the speaker had to reject Obama’s “grand bargain,” the “big deal” of $3 trillion in budget cuts for $1 trillion in “revenue enhancement.”

These crazed ideologues, the Tea Partiers, we are told by the talking heads, just do not understand that governing is about compromise.

And that is the mindset of a city that relishes nothing more than those “Kumbaya” moments when Democrats and Republicans break ranks and appear grinning together at a joint press conference to announce a “big deal” to do what is best for America.

Decade after decade, the play is re-enacted.

But the Tea Party folks were elected to close the play. As Ronald Reagan said, “We were sent here to drain the swamp, not to get along with the alligators.”

And what have the big deals done for America?

Reagan was persuaded to sign on to a bipartisan big deal to cut spending three dollars for every dollar he accepted in new taxes. And the Gipper forever believed he had been lied to, as he got three dollars in tax hikes for every dollar in spending cuts.

Obama’s offer to Boehner is the same one Reagan signed on to.

George H.W. Bush agreed to break his pledge of “no new taxes,” and raised the top rate from Reagan’s 28 percent to 35 percent.

How did that work out?

A recession ensued that probably cost Bush his presidency.

The biggest of big deals came when the GOP establishment arrived in Bill Clinton’s East Room to endorse NAFTA, GATT and a World Trade Organization that stripped America of her right to make and enforce her own trade laws.

Economic patriots fought the surrender of sovereignty and were dismissed as protectionists.

How did NAFTA, GATT and the WTO work out?

Since 1992, the United States has run a total of $7 trillion in trade deficits. Six million manufacturing jobs disappeared in the last decade, along with 50,000 factories. This year’s trade deficit just returned to an annual rate of $600 billion.

China is now the world’s leading manufacturing power. And what are Republicans doing? Demanding new free-trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

Anyone heard any Republican candidate advance a credible plan to reindustrialize America and leave China in the dust?

Anyone heard a Republican candidate call for America to give the WTO six months’ notice and get out, so we can go about rebuilding our country rather than babbling on about some New World Order? The biggest dealmaker of them all was George W. Bush.

Before he launched the war on Iraq, he got Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards and Chris Dodd to give him a blank check. As the Republican Establishment signed on to Clinton’s trade deals, the Democratic Establishment signed on to Bush’s war.

Dissenters were denounced, once again, as isolationists.

How did that big deal turn out?

It cost us 4,400 dead, 35,000 wounded and $1 trillion, with 100,000 Iraqi dead and half a million widows and orphans. Four million Iraqis have been uprooted from their homes, half fleeing to foreign lands. Half of these exiles are Christians whose communities, there since the time of Christ, are dying, as Islamists assume they are allies of the Crusaders that attacked their country.

And those weapons of mass destruction that the Democratic leadership authorized Bush to find and destroy? They did not exist.

Then there was the George Bush-Teddy Kennedy No Child Left Behind deal, which doubled spending at the Department of Education.

How did that work out?

Hundreds of billions sunk, test scores stagnant or dropping and teachers caught cheating on behalf of students to get test scores back up to keep the NCLB money flowing.

The racial gap endures, and though we spend more per capita on education than any nation save Luxembourg, we are getting creamed in international competition by East Asians and Europeans.

The response to this disaster?

“We need bipartisan agreement to invest more in education.”

Did not Albert Einstein define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result? Why would we give more money to an education establishment that has consumed the wealth of an empire and failed us for 40 years?

Bipartisan big deals gave us Vietnam, Iraq, the Reagan and Bush 1 tax hikes, NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, No Child Left Behind and prescription drug benefits under Medicare. Bipartisan big deals led America to the brink of bankruptcy.

When JFK wrote “Profiles in Courage,” it was not about the dealmakers like LBJ, but the men who stood apart and stood alone for what was right.

Democratic Dawn — or Darkness?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Right now, socially, we are disintegrating.”

So says Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and potential candidate for president of Egypt.

Indeed, post-revolutionary Egypt appears to be coming apart.

Since the heady days of Tahrir Square, Salafis have been killing Christians. Churches have been destroyed. Gangs have conducted mass prison breaks. The Muslim Brotherhood brims with confidence.

And demands are rising for the prosecution and execution of former president Hosni Mubarak.

“People do not feel secure,” says ElBaradei, “They are buying guns.” And as Anthony Shadid and David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times write, it is not only Egypt‘s future that is in doubt.

“(I)n the past weeks, the specter of divisions — religion in Egypt, fundamentalism in Tunisia, sect in Syria and Bahrain, clan in Libya — has threatened uprisings that once seemed to promise to resolve questions that have vexed the Arab world since the colonialism era.”

Can the Arab revolts cope with “the cacophony of diversity … the Arab world’s variety of clans, sects, ethnicities and religions?”

Or will we witness the disintegration of nations like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as we did Ethiopia and the Sudan — and of African, Latin American, Asian and European nations, as well?

With the end of the Cold War in 1991, it seemed the world was moving toward unity. The post-Cold War era saw the expansion of the European Union, NAFTA and GATT, the creation of a World Trade Organization, the Rome Treaty for the prosecution of war crimes, the Kyoto Protocol, and the G-7 expand to the G-8 and then to the G-20.

Nations seemed to be coming together to solve global problems.

Today, nations seem everywhere to be coming apart.

Is the future more likely to bring deepening global integration, or continued disintegration, as we saw with the collapse and breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into 24 nations, separated along the lines of ethnicity, culture and faith?

What America has on offer to the world is democratic pluralism.

Unlike the Founding Fathers and every generation before 1960, all of which sought to keep us European and Christian, we declare to the world that diversity — religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, the more the better — is now the American ideal.

In 1960, 97 percent of all Americans spoke English. Today, we take pride in the fact that Americans speak hundreds of languages.

China, the emergent rival power, fears diversity, as it portends inevitable division. It thus represses religious and ethnic minorities — Christian and Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians. China offers the world another face, the face of the ethno-national state of Han Chinese. Like Korea, Japan and the other Asian nations, China is closed to immigrants.

Looking to the Middle East today, half a year into the Arab Spring that began in Tunisia, we see Libyan tribes standing by Moammar Gadhafi against Benghazi and the east, and Muslims attacking Christians in Egypt.

In Syria, the Alawite Shia minority, to which President Bashar Assad belongs, speaks with terror of a seizure of power by Sunni, whose slogan is, “Christians to Beirut and Alawites to the coffin.”

In Bahrain, the monarchy is Sunni, the majority Shia, and that is the dividing line. In Iraq, it is Arab, Kurd and Turkmen, Shia majority vs. Sunni minority, Muslim against Christian.

One half of Iran is Persian, the other half Arab, Kurd, Azeri and Baluch. In Afghanistan, the Pashtun majority in the center and south have historically dominated the Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara.

Is the greater likelihood that the Arab nations, riven by rebellion and revolution, will become democracies, or that they will disintegrate along religious, ethnic and tribal lines?

Indeed, where is the democratic model for the Middle East?

There is none. Lebanon is as close as it comes, but Lebanon has been disintegrating for decades. And then there is Turkey, an ethno-national state that represses its Kurd minority and is on its way to becoming an Islamic state.

As for a U.S.-British belief in diversity and democracy as the world’s model, as President Obama preached in London, our own democracy is proving incapable of balancing its budgets, or winning its wars, or defending its borders. Our politics are poisonous, and tribalism is rising not disappearing. And it is not autocratic Chinese but a democratic West that is facing devaluations and defaults.

Moreover, as The New Republic writes in “The Great Democracy Meltdown,” it is “democratic meltdowns, not democratic revolutions, that are now the norm.” In its recent annual survey, “Freedom House found that global freedom plummeted for the fifth year in a row, the longest continuous decline in nearly 40 years.”

Why is this happening?

In the 21st century, the call of one’s God and the claims of blood and soil seem more magnetic than the ideologies of the 19th and 20th century: Marxism, socialism or democracy. People do not seem to seek equality with other cultures, faiths and tribes, but a separate existence in nations that are of, by and for themselves alone.

Requiem for a Patriot

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Conservative Tycoon … Dies at 95,” said the New York Times headline on New Year’s Eve about the death of Roger Milliken.

Clearly, the headline writer did not know the man.

For Roger Milliken exemplified the finest in American free enterprise. He cared about his workers. He cared about his industry. He cared about his community. He cared about his country.

Into his 90s, Roger was holding strategy sessions in Washington and walking the halls of Congress to convince free-traders half his age that, Esau-like, they were swapping the manufacturing base of their nation for a mess of Chinese-made pottage down at the mall.

It was 63 years ago, on his father’s death, that Roger took over the family business begun in 1865 and started to build Milliken & Co. into the largest privately owned business in America, a national and world leader in textiles and chemicals that today holds 2,000 patents.

In the 1950s, he relocated from New York to Spartanburg, S.C.

Few men did more to build the two-party system in South Carolina than Roger, who supported Barry Goldwater in 1964 and helped to persuade Strom Thurmond to leave the Democratic Party. In the 1960s, Roger had urged Wofford College to integrate its student body and promised to make up for any financial losses if it took the step.

The great cause of the later years of his life was his workers, his company and his country, all of which he saw imperiled by a global system set up for the benefit of transnational corporations for whom, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, the very ground “they stand upon does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”

In 1985, Roger had come to the White House to persuade me to convince the president to sign a bill to slow the flood of textiles into the country. No way, I told Mr. Milliken. I’m the biggest free-trader in the building, except for the fellow down the hall, who was Ronald Reagan. Roger went away disappointed. Reagan vetoed the bill. And I supervised the writing of the veto message.

Within half a decade, however, some of us had seen the light and enlisted in Roger’s crusade to preserve the manufacturing core of the country that he rightly saw as inextricably tied to the prosperity and the pre-eminence of the United States.

Among the richest men in America, Roger did not have to lead this battle, or even to fight it. Indeed, he did not have to work. He could have retired and traveled the world as other billionaires did.

Yet he was there in the thick of the battle against NAFTA, GATT and the new World Trade Organization. He opposed MFN and PNTR for China. He broke with the party he helped to build to back candidates who would stand with him, as he watched the U.S. trade deficit rise and rise, tens of thousands of industrial plants close and millions of manufacturing jobs leave for Asia. It came close, I believe, to breaking his heart, for he so loved his company and his country.

Intellectuals deride “paternalistic capitalism,” the idea that men who begin and build companies know better than investors, unions and markets what is best for them and their workers.

Roger Milliken exemplified the best of that dying breed.

When his carpet plant in La Grange, Ga., burned down on Jan. 31, 1995, Roger could have collected the insurance money, taken advantage of NAFTA, built a new plant in Mexico, employing the same low-wage labor some of his rivals were using, and pocketed the difference as profits for his company.

Instead, he arrived in La Grange the morning after the fire, gathered the stunned workers, told them he would find temporary jobs for them, then pledged to have the most modern carpet factory in the world built on that same site in six months.

He moved his La Grange workers to plants across the South, even to England, and called friendly rivals to ask them to hire his people. He moved to La Grange, oversaw the design of the new plant, brought in 3,000 construction workers and craftsmen, and directed the round-the-clock triple shifts to rebuild his burned-out factory.

A reporter called it with amazement “a company taking care of its company town.” As promised, on Aug. 1, 1995, the new plant opened.

Roger Milliken belonged to a rare species of men who used to be more common here in America than anywhere in the world. With his liberal arts degree from Yale, he was a man of ideas and a man of action. He had the ability to enlist creative genius, managerial talent and loyal workers to build an empire of production that was the best in the world. He wished to be remembered with a single word: builder.

That he was, and if America is in a time of decline, it is because we no longer produce many men like Roger Milliken.