My reaction to any politician claiming to offer “straight talk” is a knowing chuckle (“yeah, right”), and that includes John McCain. So I’ve got to give credit to the so-called Straight Talk Express for a recent campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio, where the Republican presidential candidate offered some honest and accurate comments on a contentious subject in politically risky circumstances—straight talk, if you will.
The subject was trade, and McCain defended it in a region suffering from the real or perceived effects of the extension of free trade in recent decades. In the heart of labor union-friendly, manufacturing-dependent eastern Ohio, McCain said, among other things:
The biggest problem is not so much what’s happened with free trade, but our inability to adjust to a new world economy.
Protectionism and isolationism have never worked in American history.
I can’t look you in the eye and tell you that I believe those jobs are coming back. What we’ve got to do is provide [displaced workers] with education and training programs that work.
With pro-growth policies to create new jobs, and with honest and efficient government in Washington, we can turn things around in this city.
Pro-growth policies would include, one assumes, lowering the state’s state-local tax burden, calculated by the Tax Foundation as 12.4%, fifth-highest in the nation.