Bad Idea of the Month: The Return of the Tariffs

So I’ve been waiting for awhile to pick what I thought was the worst idea of May 2018, but it just so happened to fall into my lap this morning as I perused the news. We are now dealing with the return of the idiotic tariff regime that President Trump officially announced a few months ago, and this is by far the worst idea to come out of the White House this month.

As I’ve stated before, I find unfettered free trade to be the best option for an economically powerful nation like the United States and believe that the imposition of tariffs on a wide variety of goods would spell disaster for many American industries, companies, and jobs (not to mention the international tensions it would create). For a short while there, I thought that the Trump administration had slightly come to its senses on this critical issue, but alas I was wrong. We’ve now imposed significant tariffs on steel and aluminum (25% and 10% respectively), and are prepared to enforce them against some of our staunchest allies and closest economic partners, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico.

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A steel mill, which will have to pump out even more non-competitive product now that we’re imposing tariffs on steel imports.         Image Credit: Rio Grande Guardian

Those nations and regional blocs are retaliating in kind, pushing for tariffs on American products like motorcycles, crops, steel, and bourbon, as well as (rightly) filing a complaint against the US in the World Trade Organization. The fact that we’re imposing tariffs on our friends as well as our rivals (read: China) shows we’re truly invested in these draconian measures, but also clearly depicts our administration’s economic illiteracy. These tariffs are going to harm American industries and workers, while also harming those of our close allies in Europe and North America. They will do nothing to improve or secure the American steel or aluminum industries and the rationale of national security being used to justify these moves is both a stretch of the law and an incredible betrayal of our allies. If we cannot trust the nations which have fought alongside us in wars dating back a century, how can we trust any other nation?

Perhaps that question, answered in the negative (in that we cannot and should not trust other nations) goes to the heart of the reasoning behind these ridiculous actions: we increasingly wish to go it alone on the world stage and also simultaneously retreat into our shell to avoid global issues. That approach is destined to fail, as it has (consistently) for the past century. Let’s hope we clear our heads of this silly idea of tariffs and isolationism, so as to retain our status as the most powerful nation on earth. Believe me, we won’t like it when China steps up to take our place, so we should do all that we can to cement our alliances and work to enhance American prestige globally. Unfortunately, we’ve been cursed with a foolish oaf for a President and a lackluster, do-nothing Congress; now this sort of attitude needs to come from the ground up instead of the other way around.

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