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Buy American/Hire American Policies Will Backfire

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Any project funded by February’s $789 billion stimulus package is meant to use only US made steel and manufactured goods. Any financial institution receiving bail out funds must give preference to citizens. Will these policies backfire? Opponents say these policies will have little direct impact on job creation, and could have very harmful repercussions by triggering a global trade war in which each country seeks to “beggar its neighbor” in a vicious cycle of economic decline. Proponents argue that these policies focus taxpayer money to yield the biggest benefit for American families, they help American business to compete with cheap foreign labor, and that governments the world over already favor their domestic industries. Are we subsidizing the inefficient, or sparking a much needed boost to the economy?

The Debaters

For the motion

Jagdish Bhagwati

University Professor of Economics and Law, at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations

Bhagwati is a University Professor of Economics and Law, at Columbia University and senior fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign... Read More

Douglas Irwin

Robert E. Maxwell Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College

Douglas is the Robert E. Maxwell Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College.Read More

Susan Schwab

United States Trade Representative (USTR) from 2006-2009

Schwab served as United States Trade Representative (USTR) from 2006-2009. As USTR, Ambassador Schwab was a member of President George W. Bush's cabinet... Read More

Against the motion

Jeff Madrick

Leading Economic Analyst and Editor of Challenge Magazine

A former economics columnist for The New York Times, and current Editor of Challenge Magazine, Jeff Madrick is a regular contributor to The New York... Read More

John R. MacArthur

President and Publisher of Harper's Magazine

John is president and publisher of Harper's Magazine, the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in America. He has served in this role since... Read More

Leo Gerard

International President of the United Steelworkers

Leo is International President of the United Steelworkers, the dominant union in paper, forestry products, steel, aluminum, tire and rubber, glass... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Increasing production costs on civic projects, like critical infrastructure repair, by mandating the purchase of higher-priced American goods costs taxpayers more while delivering less.
  • When American companies are mandated to purchase higher-cost American products, they hire fewer workers and create fewer jobs.
  • Without the ability to hire the best and brightest from around the world, American innovation will suffer while foreign markets become more competitive.
Against The Motion
  • “Buy American/Hire American” policies ensure American companies, and consequently American workers, are the beneficiaries of municipal projects funded by American taxpayers.
  • Buying American helps to sustain the nation’s industrial economy, which creates demand for engineering and innovation on American soil.
  • Many of America’s trade partners, like France and China, have enacted domestic policies that ensure state funds benefit national companies—the U.S. must do the same to remain competitive.


  • Live Audience
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  • Results
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The Research

The Research

That 'Buy American' Provision

New York Times February 11
March 1, 2016

Seven Myths and the Folly of Our ‘Free Trade' Fantasy

Michelle Applebaum July 1
March 1, 2016

The Battle of Smoot-Hawley

Economist December 18
March 1, 2016
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