President Bush, making diplomatic nice in India on Friday, dealt this slap in the face to the hemorrhaging American middle class:

“In my country, some focus only on one aspect of our trade relations with India – outsourcing.”

“The United States will not give into the protectionists and lose…opportunities,” Bush said… “For the sake of workers in both our countries, America will trade with confidence.”

The story by AP writer Terence Hunt, goes on to fill in a little background on what “protectionists” might find objectionable about the US’ trade relationships with India:

An estimated 40 percent of Indians live on less than $1 a day. Yet the middle class has swelled to more than 300 million — larger than the entire U.S. population — and India’s exploding economy has created millions of jobs.

The outsourcing industry — in which Indian firms handle everything from software engineering to customer service call centers for foreign companies — is expected to bring in $22 billion in revenue alone this fiscal year. Much of that outsourcing business is generated by U.S. companies, many that have eliminated domestic jobs for cheaper Indian labor.

The president said the United States should see this rapidly growing nation as a land of opportunity instead of a threat. America’s best response to globalization is not to erect economic barriers to protect workers, but educate them to make sure they can compete on any stage, Bush said.

Twelve years ago, my husband took a job with a Portland manufacturer. The company, which had been in business for more than a decade before husband signed on, boomed during the nineties. It became one of the largest players in its market. Executives with six-figure salaries, showroom on Fifth Avenue, write-ups in the trades…the whole nine yards. And then…then, along came the Far East. Their cheap labor, cheap goods, state-subsidized dirt-cheap manufacturing has all but put the company my husband works for out of business.

At the very least, a perfectly good factory, which at one time provided living wages and benefits to upwards of 250 people, has been turned into little more than an import hub. I visited the factory the other day…the machines were eerily quiet. Looking out over the production floor, the only activity I saw was a little group of employees, a tenth of what the work force used to be, repacking goods shipped from China and India. My husband and I have had to face the fact that it is probably only a matter of time before his own living wage and benefits (such as they are after three years of cuts) go away, too. He will be fifty years old this summer. Too young to retire; arguably, a little long in the tooth to start over.

Yesterday, President Bush stood before an audience in India, a nation that the American government has finally conceded to embrace, in all its nuclear proliferation, oil-consuming, booming economic glory. And he had the nerve to call my husband and me “protectionists.” Somebody, somewhere, exported our livelihood to India, and the Bush administration believes that we should now embrace that fast-growing economy without bitterness, without rancor. And I should do this from where, Mr. Bush? From the unemployment line? While the Bush Administration coddles and rewards the rich, our poor become more destitute, and the American middle class perishes from excessive transfusion of its jobs and income into India’s and China’s booming middle classes?

What does George W. Bush, privileged son of the oil-rich president that voters rejected fourteen years ago for not knowing the price of a pound of ground beef at the supermarket, know of the middle class? What does he care?

This time around, we have a number of heavy factors to consider when we enter the voting booths. We have an illegal war. We have state-sanctioned torture and unwarranted spying on American citizens. We have incompetent disaster relief. We have a health care, drug and insurance crisis of epic proportions. We have ecological rape. We have lies and corruption. And more lies and corruption. Lofty and worrisome problems all.

But, you know what? Despite all the (cunningly manipulated) facts and figures that point to a strong, thriving, healthy, choose-your-superlative economic recovery here in the good ole U S of A, in my world, “it’s [still] the economy, stupid.” And my little sliver of the American dream that has been shipped halfway across the world.