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.