U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk greets the crowd in Wheeling, Ill. as he accepts the Republican nomination to run for the U.S. Senate seat, on Tuesday Feb. 2, 2010.
Having run out of attacks on Mark Kirk’s character and his domestic policies, Alexi Giannoulias is now criticizing his opponent for kowtowing to the Chinese. According to a press release from Giannoulias’s office, Kirk has voted for bills that allow American companies to export jobs to China, and allow Chinese companies to undercut American manufacturers by selling cheap, government-subsidized products over here.
Is Kirk a stooge of the Chinese, helping them undermine American industry? Verdict: Kinda Truthish. Here's why.
Giannoulias claims that Kirk “voted six times to protect loopholes that reward corporations that ship American jobs overseas.” Let’s look at some of those votes.
Kirk voted for the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. According to Giannoulias, the bill gave “benefits to corporations that locate offshore to dodge U.S. taxes.” But there was a tax break for everyone in that bill. According to The New York Times, “[t]he sprawling bill’s main provisions would eliminate a tax break for American exporters that was declared illegal by the World Trade Organization and replace it with a tax reduction of about 10 percent for companies that manufacture goods in the United States.”
(According to Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, Kirk only voted for the bill on a motion to recommit, a procedural vote that breaks along party lines. When the bill came up for a final vote, Kirk voted no.)
Giannoulias also claims that Kirk “voted against penalizing companies that lay off a greater percentage of their U.S. workers than workers overseas.” The bill in question was a reauthorization of the Import-Export Bank, which provides loans to foreign buyers of American exports.
The bill that dealt most directly with China was the United States Trade Rights Enforcement Act of 2005. A reaction to accusations that the Chinese were manipulating their currency and dumping cheap goods on our country, it would have allowed the U.S. to even the score by placing “countervailing duties” on Chinese products. The bill passed the Republican-controlled House, but was never voted on in the Senate. Kirk voted no, calling the measure “gratuitous.” The conservative Cato Institute said it “would simply increase protectionism in the global economy, not advance China’s march toward a global economy.”
In 2001, Kirk voted for the Economic Security and Worker Assistance Act. Giannoulias’s take on that bill: it included “billions in tax breaks to financial corporations that have overseas operations.” It also included tax relief for families who’d lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, tax breaks for areas of Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero, and health insurance credits for displaced workers.
Giannoulias also attacks Kirk for voting against this year’s American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes and Preventing Outsourcing Act, which, according to the House Speaker’s office, “[e]liminates tax provisions that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas.”
So how does all this really add up, if you're not relying on Giannoulias' press releases?
Firstly, Giannoulias is obviously cherry-picking from Kirk's record to highlight what can be construed as unflattering votes. Secondly, this is just a detailed way of reminding voters that Giannoulias tends toward protectionism to safeguard American jobs, while Kirk believes in free trade.
Or as Giannoulias would say it: “I support a comprehensive trade policy that encourages fair trade that benefits both nations, not the one-sided arrangement that Congressman Kirk prefers." In other words, it's about people, not corporations, an old liberal saw.
Kirk’s response? Giannoulias “wants a trade war with China. That represents $18 billion in exports from Illinois. Two hundred thousand families in Illinois depend on those sales.” In other words, corporations are about people, an old conservative saw.
Both candidates are right on this issue, and both are wrong -- but neither is favoring China over America.