Why You Should Care About The Tariff Debate

Oct 15, 2018

From the confusing debate over tariffs and‎ trade policy, four distinct, and distinctly different, conclusions emerge.

First, China may present a special case. Employing a toxic mix of currency manipulation, wholesale appropriation of intellectual property, and high tariffs, the Chinese government appears to be constructing a mercantilist wall of protection economists call "beggar thy neighbor".

Second, tariffs are not cost-free. A tariff is a tax. Many Americans will be taxed through higher prices to subsidize the jobs of relatively fewer Americans. Is this equitable? Is it just? Is it even good economics?

Third, tariffs impose random, uneven consequences. There are many more American workers who use aluminum and steel than there are American workers who make aluminum and steel. How do we explain to the many users of aluminum and steel that we are risking their jobs for the far fewer makers of aluminum and steel?

Fourth, tariff policy may threaten other policies, and how do we choose between them? There is mounting evidence that price increases associated with tariffs may endanger the wage increases resulting from December's tax cuts. Wages seem finally to have begun to rise. How do we tell long suffering fellow citizens that their wage increases might be erased?

I'm Bob Evans, and that is my perspective.