It is possible to make serious arguments against Donald Trump's views on trade, but apparently the Washington Post can't find anyone with sufficient knowledge and skills. Instead they assigned Fareed Zakaria the task and he failed badly.

Zakaria tells readers:

"The appeal of both Trump and Sanders has many politicians mouthing cliches about the deep problems with globalization. It is true that two gifted populists have been able to give voice to people’s fears about a fast-changing world. But this does not alter the truth. Their central charge is false. Free trade has not caused the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing.

"Manufacturing as a share of all U.S. jobs has been declining for 70 years, as part of a transition experienced by every advanced industrial economy."

If Zakaria had access to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics he would have better knowledge of trends in employment in U.S. manufacturing.

Jobs in Manufacturing Industries

manu jobs2Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As can be seen, employment in manufacturing hovered near 17.5 million from the late 1960s until 2000. At that point, the explosion in the size of the U.S. trade deficit sent employment in manufacturing plummeting. We lost roughly over 3 million manufacturing jobs in this period, almost 20 percent of total employment, before the onset of the recession. It is difficult to believe that a Washington Post columnist could be so ignorant of these data and still be writing a column on the topic.

It is also important to note that Zakaria insists on saying the United States has been pursuing a policy of free trade even though this is clearly not the case. Under U.S. law, it is necessary to go through a residency program in the United States to practice as a doctor. It is necessary to go to a U.S dental school (or recently a Canadian school) to be a dentist. Does anyone seriously believe that the only way to be a competent doctor is to go through a U.S. residency program or to be a competent dentist is to go to a U.S. dental school?

These protectionist barriers inflate the pay of both doctors and dentists and add over $100 billion a year to our health care bill. Are we supposed to believe columnists at the Post are too stupid (to use Trump's word) to notice this fact?

What about patent and copyright protection? We will spend over $430 billion this year for prescription drugs that would likely cost around one-tenth this price in a free market. This is massive protectionism that imposes enormous costs on people's health. Did this also escape Zakaria's attention? (There are more efficient ways to finance drug research.)

Trump is obviously a blowhard without a coherent trade or economic policy, but in this battle he beats Zakaria hands down.