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‘An economic Pearl Harbor’: Fritz Hollings’ views on globalization, federal budget

Former U.S. Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings has died

Former U.S. Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings died Saturday, April 6, 2019, at age 97. This video shows Hollings with John F. Kennedy, Robert Mueller, Andy Griffin, Jim Clyburn and others. He was a World War II veteran, governor and U.S. Senator.
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Former U.S. Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings died Saturday, April 6, 2019, at age 97. This video shows Hollings with John F. Kennedy, Robert Mueller, Andy Griffin, Jim Clyburn and others. He was a World War II veteran, governor and U.S. Senator.

After his retirement from Congress, U.S. Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings wrote a book, published in 2008 by USC Press, about his nearly four decades in Washington. He suggested it could be a primer for overhauling government. Here are excerpts from “Making Government Work.”

On globalization: “For years, Congress and Corporate America struggled to protect the nation’s production and economy. Each time they were rebuffed by ‘free-trade Presidents’ Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Then with President Clinton’s NAFTA with Mexico, PNTR (permanent normal trade relations) with China and WTO, we’ve been hit with an economic Pearl Harbor in globalization. Like Roosevelt, we must build an economic superpower to become a military superpower. We’ve got to put America back to work. We must disenthrall ourselves from caterwauling about corporate greed. We drove Corporate America to outsource. Rather than whine, ‘be fair,’ ‘be fair,’ ‘free trade,’ and cry about what China needs to do, we need to concentrate on what America needs to do.”

On what’s gone wrong in Washington: “Government has gone off course. We refuse to pay our bills. Instead we accumulate more debt. We waste billions in interest costs that buy nothing. Our manufacturing base is decimated. All the while casualties (in Iraq) continue in a battle for a cause the country thinks a mistake. The Congress flounders in dangerous waters. The greed of capitalism has reached compatibility with the greed of politics. The capitalist is divorced from country to seek profit, and the politican is divorced from country to seek contributions. Desperate needs are ignored.”

On losing a 1990 battle to impose a quota on foreign textile and apparel imports: “President Kennedy had saved the industry in 1991, but now four presidents — Johnston, Carter, Reagan and Bush — had thwarted efforts to protest our nation’s textile industry even after substantial majorities of lawmakers had backed our legislation... Too bad President (George H.W.) Bush didn’t take the time or trouble to travel outside his bubble of economic advisers with their ‘economic indicators.’ If he had gone on the road to South Carolina and elsewhere around the country and talked to people who once held jobs in textile factories, Bush surely would have reached a different conclusion.”

On passage of the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act to reduce the deficit and enact automatic spending cuts: “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings worked for a blissful two-year honeymoon. Congress and the White House stopped cheating and fibbing and settled down to cut the budget deficit from $221 billion in 1986 to $150 billion in 1987. But we began to backslide. In short order the budget process was failing once again. OMB’s (the Office of Management and Budget) estimates of the deficit began to be an exercise in wishful thinking. Its rosy estimates meant that we we would avoid the automatic cuts called for in the law. We were back to playing games and tricks and dodges.”

On his abortive bid for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination: “I decided to jump into the race because our government was failing the people. Rising deficits, reckless spending on defense, spiraling unemployment, and, perhaps worst of all, the failure of President Reagan to appeal to the common good, made it obvious we needed a call to sacrifice.... I withdraw from the race on March 1. The hard political reality that you have to have boatloads of money to win had sunk in... I do not regret having given it a try.”

On the 1963 integration of Clemson University by African-American Harvey Gantt: “Nearing the end of my term as Governor in January 1963, I summed up my duty as Governor in the phrase salus populi suprema lex (the safety of the people is the supreme law). Quietly, I laid the groundwork to integrate Clemson and maintain the peace. I called Attorney General Robert Kennedy, informing him of our plans, and said, ‘We do not need U.S. Marshals.’ On January 9, 1963, I told the state legislators in my valedictory address that the law of the land was clear.”

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