Tea Party Supporters Should Continue to Back Free Trade

Bryan Riley /

Recent media reports have questioned whether “Tea Party” members support free trade. Historically, the record is clear: Tea partiers were America’s original free traders.

In 1773, American colonists dumped 340 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor rather than pay tariffs on imported tea. Less than three years later, signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence accused King George III of “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.”

Which is why today’s Tea Party members have an important role to play in opposing today’s protectionists, some of whom argue that cutting off our trade with other parts of the world would actually be a good thing. For example, according to one recent opinion piece:

In 1992, then-Presidential candidate Ross Perot coined the expression, “Giant sucking sound” to describe the exodus of jobs from America into Mexico if the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] was passed. NAFTA was passed and America’s industrial base was decimated. Since NAFTA, several other free trade agreements have been passed. The results are always the same: The other nations get the benefit and America loses.

That’s just wrong. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve Bank, U.S. employment is up 15 percent since NAFTA took effect. U.S. industrial output is up 40 percent. Whoops!

Trade barriers are literally the textbook example of special interests using their influence to receive special treatment from the government at the expense of average Americans. U.S. trade barriers reward groups for their political clout. This is influence peddling at its worst.

All Americans should join today’s Tea Party members in calling for the end of trade restrictions that benefit politically connected insiders and fight for economic freedom for every American.