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Columns

July 28, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: Free trade hurts U.S.

COLUMBUS _ I was in the barn doorway, sanding down a 12-foot trim board when a silver Ford Ranger rolled into the driveway.

``Uncle Chet!'' said Buddy, who was holding one end of the board on a sawhorse.

I glanced around and shut off the palm sander, eager for a break. I took off the ear muffs and Buddy followed suit as the truck parked by the back door.

``Those stairs in yet?'' Uncle Chet called, heading our way.

``Not yet,'' said Buddy.

``Why not?'' asked the man in sunglasses and straw hat. His white beard was neatly trimmed, and he wore a blue pocket T-shirt and jeans.

``We were waiting for you," I said.

He nodded toward the far side of the barn where the little miscreant, now 15, was practicing foul shots. ``You ought to get her to help you.''

``She will. Right now, I'm finishing the trim,'' I said. ``And I've been sanding this board for half an hour.''

``Change the sandpaper; don't be so cheap!'' said Uncle Chet.

``Look at that pile.'' I pointed at a loose stack of crumpled dusty sheets on the corner of the work table.

``All on this board?'' He examined the knotless white pine.

``They only last a minute; this is the worst sandpaper I've ever seen,'' I said. ``The grit just falls off.''

``Foreign junk,'' he said. ``Another product we've outsourced.''

``What is `outsourced?''' asked Buddy, who's getting ready for third grade.

```Outsourced' means sent to another country,'' said Uncle Chet. ``The rich people who run the United States have sent our industries to China and other countries, so now nearly everything we buy comes from somewhere else.''

``Why?'' asked the boy.

``Why did they do it?'' said Uncle Chet. ``To make money. They built new factories in places where people would work for next to nothing, then started shipping their sneakers, lawn chairs and sandpaper back here. Now other countries make tons of stuff and we make diddley-squat, so we depend on them for nearly everything, including loans of what used to be our money.''

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