Politicians from both parties are embracing protectionism, a dangerous and foolish idea, by enforcing tariffs and pulling out of significant trade deals.
Tariff implementation is intended to cause more people to buy domestic products by raising the price of imported goods, but high tariffs are a recipe for disaster. Not only would they throw other nations into recession, but the United States would be dragging itself down as well.
If the U.S. government places tariffs on Mexican or Chinese goods, Mexico and China will respond with retaliatory tariffs, making exports from the United States more expensive and putting in danger the jobs of millions of people working in trade-dependent industries.
Tariffs on foreign products also make them more expensive for U.S. consumers. In 2009, former President Barack Obama foolishly imposed tariffs on Chinese tires.
According to The Washington Post, this tariff helped create 1,200 jobs. It is worth noting that this is a generous number, giving that tire employment was already trending upward. However, the tire tariff cost U.S. consumers $1.1 billion.
President Donald Trump withdrew the nation from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and now wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has complained about free trade’s negative effects on the United States, but the facts tell a different story.
His logic completely ignores the fact that U.S. businesses import goods in order to keep production costs low.
A chunk of these imported goods are intermediate products that are used to make U.S. goods. A tariff would make domestic goods more expensive. According to The Wall Street Journal, international trade deals save the average U.S. household $10,000.
For 40 years, the United States has held a manufacturing share of 20 percent in the global market. Factory workers are losing their jobs but not because of free trade, as presumed by some politicians.
The biggest threat to jobs, economists say, is automation. To compete with other nations, domestic companies must boost production. McKinsey & Co. stated that 59 percent of manufacturing jobs will be automated, specifically 73 percent of the food industry and 53 percent of the retail sector.
White-collar workers are also at risk. If computers can be programmed to understand speech as well humans do, it is estimated that 66 percent of finance and insurance jobs will be automated.
Many people voted for Trump because he promised to “Make America Great Again.” To them, this meant creating well-paying, blue-collar jobs that would support their families; their way of life is dying and theirs was a vote of desperation.
This portion of the United States has voted for policies that will make it harder on the rest of the nation. Protectionism is a dangerous ideal.
In the short term, there can be some mild gains but, as the evidence shows, the long-term costs are devastating to U.S. consumers and to the world economy. Politicians in both parties need to grow a spine, stand up and stop this madness.