Guest Editorial: Trade is in turmoil — why hasn't Wilbur Ross been fired?

Farmington Daily Times
Guest Editorial

President Donald Trump defines himself by the people who surround him, especially the top advisers he picks to run his administration — people he described in early 2016 as “the best and most serious people” and “top of the line professionals.” 

When it comes to pronouncing on their ability to abide by the law and remain corruption-free, however, Trump falls eerily silent or resorts to blaming the scandals plaguing his administration on “fake news.”

Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute in March described the administration as a “contingent of corrupt kleptocrats.” Two of his Cabinet members have been forced out amid corruption scandals. A third, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, has a history of ethical lapses and potential criminal behavior deserving of deeper congressional investigation, if not a swift boot out the door by Trump himself.

A recent report by Forbes magazine outlined levels of corporate malfeasance by Ross that should have disqualified him from the start. His Senate confirmation hearings should have opened with questioning about the lie by Ross that he was worth $2 billion when, in fact, his worth is in the range of only $700 million.

Forbes reporter Dan Alexander has spent months investigating the secretary’s background. Ross has allegedly stolen from his business partners, prompting multiple lawsuits and even litigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The total amount Ross’ company is alleged to have pilfered from various individuals exceeds $120 million. The SEC levied a $2.3 million fine against his firm, WL Ross & Co. An investigation determined the company had skimmed $11.9 million from its investors.

Ross also is reputed to be a consummate liar. Why should all this matter? The commerce secretary plays a role similar to that of the secretaries of state and defense in representing the United States abroad. He is the point man in international trade negotiations. His advice to the president can affect hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. imports and exports along with millions of jobs.

Wherever you look these days, the U.S. commerce picture is in abject turmoil. Missouri and Illinois farmers are reaching the point of crisis over tariff decisions by Trump that are severely restricting U.S. exports of soybeans, pork and other commodities to longtime trading partners like Mexico, Europe and China. Ross is the man behind the current protectionist turmoil.

America cannot afford to have a crook in any Cabinet position, but especially not serving as the face of American commerce. Missouri and Illinois farmers hold particular positions of influence in upcoming midterm elections because of the congressional seats currently in play in these two states. 

If farmers want to recover lost overseas markets and restore stability to the trading picture, they can work wonders by registering their concerns with the White House about Ross’ fitness for the job.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug 14