Oh no! A trade war! It will hit consumers! It will make investors nervous! Foreign nations will become our enemies! The damage we do to ourselves will be worse than we do to importers of competing products!
The sky is falling!
The sky will fall eventually, but not on account of this tariff.
It is so funny to hear MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and other media outlets sounding alarms practically in unison. I am beginning to think that all the media are becoming contrarians. If Trump says something decidedly unambiguous, then the right thing for any media outlet to do is oppose it, just on principle.
If you look at the stuff I’ve written about Trump in the run-up to the 2016 elections, then you know I supported candidates other than Trump in the primaries and urged voters to consider all the presidential candidates, not just Trump and Clinton, when voting in the general election. I distrusted Trump at the outset just by the fact that he is a casino tycoon (I have always opposed gambling). I have not written of Trump in flattering terms.
There are many troubling things that could topple our nation and the world. The financial system was not fixed by the 2008 bailouts. The bad actors in the financial sector implicated in that meltdown fiasco are still there, right? There will still be a huge financial disaster in our future. Count on it. Prepare your families for it.
But this tariff? In the bigger scheme of things, this is no big deal.
Trump is right. Steel and aluminum are strategic industries. If worse comes to worst, our nation does not want to be in a position of having outsourced all of our steel and aluminum production.
Also, those who insist that the government, by imposing tariffs, is picking winners and losers in what is supposed to be a free marketplace need to acknowledge that these proposed tariffs are small potatoes compared to many of the other government interventions in our economy that have distorted the marketplace. Consider the health care insurance industry, for example, and the lobbyist-bought legislation at state and federal levels that have led to a captive marketplace. Consider the telecommunications giants, especially ISPs, cable TV systems, and cell phone companies and the terrible, even predatory, customer “service” they provide because they do not fear new start-ups entering the marketplace in their industries. Lobbyist-bought legislation and executive branch administrative code regulation at state and federal levels has pretty much guaranteed that Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner, and their ilk will never be dislodged from atop the heap, no matter how deeply dissatisfied customers become. Obviously, the financial industry does not operate on a level playing field. We all saw that with the undeserved bailouts in 2008 of financial companies deemed “too big to fail.”
Sure, a tariff my cause jitters on Wall Street. Free trade ideologues will denounce protectionism. But the government’s most insidious protectionism is not embodied in these tariffs. The government is very protectionist when it comes to Wall Street.
Remember why Trump won the election? He flipped several states in the Great Lakes region from blue to red–Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin–in addition to carrying purple states like Ohio. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio all have robust Democrat Party organizations, but rank-and-file Democrats stopped taking marching orders from East Coast and West Coast elites within their party. The #MeToo movement has finally addressed some of the West Coast hypocrisies that sowed distrust among Midwest Democrats. The East Coast enjoys the protectionism of the federal government. The East Coast elites and West Coast elites atop the Democrat Party do not share as much common ground with Midwest Democrats as they used to.
The coastal elites drive foreign cars. On the roads of the Midwest, the concentration of American-branded cars is much greater than on the coasts. Midwest Democrats are faced with bread-and-butter issues that the elites do not face. Sales of American-branded cars put food on the tables in the Midwest. Why don’t the coastal elites care whether Midwesterners have food on their tables? With all their wealth, why do they buy so many imports?
The coastal elites want to create sanctuary cities in the exact same locations where the minimum wage is being boosted to $15 an hour. The reason undocumented immigrants are shielded in the cities with high minimum wages is obvious to the average Midwesterner. The undocumented immigrants are being exploited–paid under the table at less than minimum wage–to create a mirage that steep minimum wage hikes are actually viable. “Who will scrub your toilets?” asked a celebrity–one I will not name here–in defense of encouraging undocumented immigration. In the Midwest, we scrub our own toilets. I, myself, worked as a hotel housekeeper and laundry attendant back in the day. I also worked agricultural jobs like picking strawberries in the summertime. But I scrubbed toilets and labored in farm fields in Ohio, not California. I am a white male, not an undocumented immigrant. Midwesterners WILL DO and HAVE DONE the kind of work that the coastal elites say that we are unwilling to do, but Midwesterners do not like competing with exploited workers being paid under the table. If there were no undocumented workers, employers would have to pay more for toilet-scrubbing workers’ wages. The presence of an exploited undocumented class of workers totally undercuts any organic efforts at improving compensation for toilet-scrubbing work. Raising the minimum wage is not organic–it’s artificial. And when raising the minimum wage occurs artificially at the same time that undocumented immigration is encouraged, then that only persuades employers to bypass the minimum wage and exploit undocumented workers for toilet-scrubbing duties. The Midwest does not want this coastal trend to infiltrate the Midwest, but that infiltration has already gained a foothold.
The steel and aluminum tariffs, if they pan out, will mostly aid the midsection of the country. Why should the midsection of the country be worried that Wall Street does not approve? The midsection of the country did not approve of Wall Street bailouts, but had to swallow them anyway. The tariffs would hardly turn the tables on the status quo, but it’s a start. To the Midwest voter, Clinton was status quo and Trump was the only hope at turning the tables. One might further qualify that Midwest voter as being Midwest white voter due to the strong preference for Clinton among nonwhite voters, but one also has to acknowledge that the nonwhite voter turnout in 2016 did not measure up to nonwhite voter turnout in the prior two presidential election cycles, suggesting the coastal elites may have lost some ground there, too.
So the protests against the tariffs are loudest along the coasts. The Midwest does not have a problem with that.
In the GOP presidential primaries of 1996 and 2000, I voted for Alan Keyes. He was an ambassador, so he has some sense of international consequences of domestic policies. In terms of taxation, Alan Keyes favored tariffs over income taxes. Our nation’s founders levied tariffs. They did not tax personal income. The US Constitution had to be amended to even allow for income taxes. Keyes made a very persuasive case that the national government should be leveraging trade for generating government revenue, and that income taxes erode the sovereignty of the people of this nation. I do not fear tariffs.
As for trade wars, they might be scary with another president at the helm, but I have to acknowledge that Trump is not your usual president. In fact, Trump has a level of expertise in negotiating deals that other presidents have not possessed. I actually feel quite confident in Trump’s capabilities in the trade arena. There are things Trump is terrible at and there are things that Trump is good at. This is something Trump could excel at. I’m on board with the tariffs.