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Independence Day, Really?

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flagchina.jpgWhile millions of American will be celebrating on the Fourth of July with parades, fireworks and picnics, we should know that the free market in which we live is not truly free, nor does it enhance the freedoms we enjoy as citizens. This Independence Day, take a look at the labels on your bikes, fireworks, grills and even your food, and consider what the future holds for this nation.

Blind faith in the free market has resulted in unsafe consumer products from China on our dinner plates, in our tubes of toothpaste and in our pets' food dishes. It has produced millions of layoff notices for manufacturing workers in our factories -- 49,000 per month since 2000. This blind faith has delayed getting domestically-made armor plating to protect our soldiers in Iraq. And it has piled up record trade deficits, leaving America with a massive debt that will limit the opportunities for our children.

But this isn't a rant against trade. On the contrary, it's a plea for trade that truly benefits everyone: workers, producers, consumers and investors. It's a plea for accountability and for enforcing the existing laws we do have to guarantee safe products and the opportunity for workers and producers in America to compete with those abroad.

Now that the issues of pending free trade agreements and presidential fast-track trade authority have been settled in Congress, the debate about a new trade policy needs to begin among our presidential candidates.

I'd love to hear just one question at an upcoming presidential debate about trade and manufacturing from Brian Williams, Wolf Blitzer or Chris Matthews. But I'm not holding my breath. You are more likely to hear a question about Paris Hilton's jail time -- or Scooter Libby's lack thereof -- than anything focusing on our economic future.

Fortunately, some groups are finding ways to burst through this blockade. The United Steelworkers are hosting a presidential candidates' forum on trade and manufacturing in Cleveland on July 5 and 6. And on July 4, Stand Up For Steel will begin urging Iowa caucusgoers to ask candidates to consider the consequences of our flawed trade policies. Check out their new, amazing ad here.

The point of the Stand Up For Steel ad should resonate with citizens on Independence Day. The American people have become all too aware of the limitations that dependency on foreign sources of energy creates for foreign policy and national security purposes; it makes no sense to exacerbate that problem by depending on China and other nations to supply our critical defense needs. Just as our nation is seeking to achieve energy independence from the Middle East, we also should avoid becoming more dependent on others to supply our national and homeland defense needs.

Our Founding Fathers were visionaries. They shaped policies not only for their time, but for generations to come. All of us would profit if we could only harness that wisdom today.