Home > Federal Bills, Federal Power, Free Market, Market > During the 112th Congress did Rep. Noem, Sen. Thune, or Sen. Johnson vote as Free Traders?

During the 112th Congress did Rep. Noem, Sen. Thune, or Sen. Johnson vote as Free Traders?

June 5, 2013

CATO has released its Free Trade/Free Markets ratings for the 112th Congress. This goes along with an interactive database to see how individual members of Congress are rated (to get the best use of this database you must play with the URL). I thought it would be interesting to see how South Dakota’s three members of Congress rated.

Before looking at the individual rating I’ll review a couple of methodology items. First, this matrix chart is used to determine the label of each Congressman:

Image Source: CATO

Image Source: CATO

For the full methodology see this page on the CATO website. However here is a good brief explanation of each category in this matrix (taken from this article):

Free traders are those that oppose both barriers and subsidies. Interventionists are those that support both barriers and subsidies. Isolationists are those that support barriers but oppose subsidies. Internationalists are those that oppose barriers but support subsidies.

So from my perspective anyone falling within the “Free Traders” portion of this matrix is a friend of liberty. Therefore anyone falling within the “Interventionists” portion of the matrix has likely bought into one or more special interests (crony-capitalism).

With that out of the way lets look at how the three South Dakota Congresspeople did.

Representative Kristi Noem – Free Trader


Go here to see Representative Noem’s votes. I was quite pleased to see Rep. Noem attaining the Free Trader label. The only vote that kept her from getting a perfect score was voting Yea to H.R.4105 (aptly named by CATO as: Apply Countervailing Duty Law to Nonmarket Economies). But I guess we can forgive her that one vote for a trade barrier. Only 85 Representatives in the House received the Free Trader label. Luckily South Dakota’s lone representative served us well by being one of those 85.

Senator John Thune- Internationalist


Go here to see Senator Thune’s votes. There were only four Senators that had a “perfect” Internationalist record; and Senator Thune is one of those four.  Half of Thune’s record is great, as it shows he understands that trade barriers hurt our economy. However on the other hand his perfect record as an Internationalist shows he is not afraid to give into special interests asking for corporate welfare. Corporate welfare in the name of protectionism is no better than those that support trade barriers. Senator Thune should be ashamed as a supposed “conservative” for acting in such a shameful big-government manner!

Senator Tim Johnson – Internationalist


Go here to see Senator Johnson’s votes. As a Democrat I expected Senator Johnson to be the most interventionist. However Senator Johnson actually has a slightly better record than Senator Thune. Just as with Thune, Senator Johnson voted against all trade barriers. Good job Senator Johnson! However Johnson voted for all but one subsidy (making him only one vote better than Thune). Since that one vote had to do with an amendment on the Senate version of the Farm Bill (S.3240), I expect his dissenting vote had more to do with politics than free markets. Hopefully the Senator that replaces Johnson in 2015 will see dangers of corporate welfare protectionism (subsidies).

Overall I think the three Congresspeople from South Dakota did better than I expected. I was happy to see our lone Representative attain the label of Free Trader. However I am disappointed with our two Senators getting the label Internationalist (corporate welfare protectionists). At this time I can only hope that in the future our Senators will reduce (or remove) their love of subsidies.

  1. June 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Neat post! Thank you! I will definitely check out Cato’s database and I will reblog this piece!

    • Ken Santema
      June 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks, yeah. CATO has provided a good tool here to determine how well our reps are doing.

  2. June 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    READERS PLEASE NOTE: I DO NOT ENDORSE OR SUPPORT ANY NON-LIBERTARIAN POLITICAL CANDIDATE. I do not recommend that you vote for or support any of the politicians discussed by Cato. However, it is very interesting to see how federal legislators shape up in one measure of their commitment to liberalized trade.

  3. lorahubbel
    June 24, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Isn’t “free trade” like NAFTA what caused all our good middle class jobs to go overseas? Is it really “free” trade when all our resources are sent over seas and we get back tones of Walmart trinkets in return? Maybe Im missing something. I will stand corrected but I don’t see a good debate here for “free” trade.

    • Ken Santema
      June 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      That is a big question, worthy of many posts. However here is my short answer.

      First off this post doesn’t tackle the debate providing for free trade. It simply talks about how legislators were graded.

      But, the simple answer is: No, free trade does not kill net jobs. Free trade can (and usually should) increase the net amount of jobs for all countries involved in free trade.

      As an example I will use the United States before the constitution was drafted. Each colony had to trade with each other to get the goods they wanted. Many of the colonies had unfair trade practices with each other that actually prevented certain trade, or made certain goods to expensive for the average person to afford. After the constitution was ratified and free trade was enacted between the states this practice (for the most part) was stopped. That allowed for an unprecedented amount of growth for all trade partners (states). Consumers were actually able to afford products that were imported from other states. Entrepreneurs were able to take advantage of new possibilities.

      The same concept holds true at an international level. But there is one thing to keep in mind: free trade will not reduce net jobs, but it may obsolete certain individual jobs. Yes, when free trade is enacted it would mean that consumers will go overseas for certain goods and services they used to purchase in the US. However new jobs are created by the opportunities created serving new customers overseas. So yes, it is possible some individuals will lose jobs, but overall many more jobs will be created than were lost due to free trade.

    • June 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Lora,

      Actually many people, including some economists and people in the business world, will tell you that it is exactly the opposite. Labor unions, while they once had a legitimate role to play when worker conditions in the U.S. were very poor, are now making it extremely hard to do business in this country. Add this to the legislative climate with thousands of pages of federal laws governing how one is required to run a business (OSHA, EPA, FDA, USDA, FAA, HIPAA, the list goes on and on). The so-called “Affordable Care Act” is already forcing many businesses to cut their staff’s hours or benefits.

      For many small businesses (Think your local mom&pop operations) it has simply become too expensive to do business at all. Only the largest companies are really able to comply with all of these obstacles, and so they have been able to monopolize the U.S. market. But even the hugest companies have found that it’s simply less expensive to move an entire operation overseas than to hire American workers.

      I think that immediate deregulation (of everything, not just whatever particular privileges lobbyists want to see) is the best solution to bringing jobs back to the U.S. I would also like to see the government (federal, state, and local) sell off unused buildings to American companies – that would be REAL stimulus and job-creation! Even government facilities which are currently in use still sit there empty for 16 hours a day, wasting energy with air conditioning for no one. They could be leased to businesses or nonprofits to share the space during the off-times, again allowing more people to have jobs and also creating the opportunity for great productivity. (I feel the same way about churches, but we can’t write laws to make them do that LOL)

      I encourage you to follow SoDak Liberty and also to check out my blog at http://www.tiffany267.wordpress.com. Both of us talk about capitalism and free markets pretty often, and if you search “free markets” on WordPress you will find a great many other bloggers with outstanding content on the subject.

      Here are a few of my posts on the subject:

      Hope this answer helped give some food for thought. Have a lovely day, and happy reading!

      In love of liberty,

      • Ken Santema
        June 25, 2013 at 7:49 pm

        Great reply tiffany!!!

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