So, let me get this straight AC--
A country that imports more than it exports is "Great!" in your estimation, and pointing out that the actual quote from ricardo concerning his theory is as follows, with a little added emphasis of my own:
"If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them [b]with some part of the produce of our own industry employed in a way in which we have some advantage.[/b] The general industry of the country, being always in proportion to the capital which employs it, will not thereby be diminished ... but only left to find out the way in which it can be employed with the greatest advantage."
Note, his thesis does not work at all when the bolded part is not met.
While the US does have the second largest export market, A significant proportion of the US's labor force is not tied to manufacturing or exports, most of it is service industry. Further, the manufacturing capacity of the US is currently struggling.
Reuters attributes the low manufacturing performance to a high valued dollar, and low oil costs (globally)-- resulting in labor for manufacturing being too expensive in the USA-- THE EXACT THING WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, and that tariffs are intended to help avert.
Their opinion is not alone-- The economic policy institute has a rather lengthly report about it.
To which they credit " nearly two decades of policy failures that have damaged its international competitiveness" as the primary causal factor behind the massive reduction in US manufacturing. What policy decisions have been enacted in the past 20 years? Various free trade agreements that removed trade tariffs.
It further states that manufacturing accounts for only 8.8% of the US's labor force. Meaning that most americans are not employed doing manufacturing, but in some other industry.
Yet somehow, despite the massively disproportionate segment of the US labor force that is allocated to service providing, industries seeking service workers (No, software is NOT a manufacturing job. it is a service job.) "Simply cannot find qualified applicants!" Perhaps we aren't training enough people to meet those needs? No-- the NYT seems to feel otherwise.
The costs of attaining a college degree are spiraling out of control, while the benefits of getting one diminish, due to labor force saturation. This is because there is out of control demand for college education, coupled with lackluster pay once it is attained. Basically, the service industry in the US does not want to pay for the education requirements it is demanding, and is leaving hopeful applicants holding the bag.
Instead, the service industry leadership wants only the cream of the crop, so to speak, of the potential applicant pool. It demands only the very finest caviar, and wants to pay cheesewiz prices. (Why not, it can get caviar for the price of cheezewiz elsewhere!)
This comparative difference in labor rates is ALSO controlled innately by tariffs, and prevents this kind of labor shopping-- at least as far as outsourced labor is concerned.
Now that I have buried you under a pretty substantively sized wall of text with some citations and opinion pieces by bonafide economists, perhaps you can be a little more forthcoming in how my interpretation of your rhetorical question is so clearly "Wrong", yes?