Posted on December 29, 2021
Tariff Man II
Trump policy shields Biden from blame
President Biden may never have tweeted "Tariffs are great!" like his predecessor did, but that remark characterizes his policy nonetheless. The difference is that, unlike President Trump, whose "trade war" was used by his liberal critics to portray him as needlessly provocative toward other nations, Biden has been allowed to maintain and even build upon the Trump tariffs with very little notice, let alone criticism.
About a month ago, even as Biden was touting his party's "Build Back Better Act," he doubled the tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, from just under 9 percent to 17.9. This dramatic increase in the cost of importing lumber from Canada comes at a time when lumber is already about four times as expensive as it was during the latter half of last decade. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the cost of building a new single-family house has gone up by an average of $35,872 just since last year. Does Biden think that's not enough?
The usual reason for the raising of tariffs is to punish another country for trade policies that are perceived to be unfair. The mechanism for doing so, however, is the levying of a punitive tax against the importers and consumers of goods from that country. It is not Canada that is paying Biden's tariff, but the importers of Canadian lumber, who will pass the expense on to their customers. How it came to be that a tariff can be assessed unilaterally by the president is a matter that Congress needs to remedy. Why there should be such an increase at a time of crisis-level inflation is a question that Biden should have to answer.
He hasn't had to, mostly because of the hypocrisy of conservatives who supported Trump's tariffs solely because they were his. There was very little support for tariffs on the right side of the aisle before 2016, but once it became clear to everybody how committed Trump was to raising them, conservative leaders across the board, from Larry Kudlow to Rush Limbaugh, got on board. Just three weeks before being appointed director of the National Economic Council by Trump, Kudlow wrote an op-ed called "Tariffs Are Taxes," in which he likened tariffs to economic sanctions imposed on our own country. Upon joining the administration, he praised the president for his use of tariffs as a negotiating tool, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Trump had actually imposed them on goods not only from China, but from trading partners all over the world. Limbaugh, a tireless combatant against protectionist demagoguery during the 90s, did an about-face during the Trump years, actually publishing a piece in The Limbaugh Letter claiming that tariffs had never done anybody any harm.
Naturally, there was plenty of hypocrisy on the Left as well. Protectionist tariffs, a longtime staple of Democrat politics, suddenly became controversial once they were Trump's tariffs. The liberal media actually began explaining to people that when the president imposes tariffs, it is American consumers who pay. On the other side of the equation, retaliatory tariffs, especially by China, caused a reduction in exports of American commodities, and this was actually reported. Interviews with American farmers who are being harmed by the trade war were commonplace.
This was as it should have been, for that was simply an honest reporting of the news, but where is it now? Biden has done nothing to change the course of Trump's trade war with China. American consumers are still paying more than they should have to. American farmers are still having trouble finding markets for their goods. Just because a Democrat now occupies the White House, these things no longer matter.
In a way, this disparity in treatment is easy for the media to justify, because for a Democrat to deliberately inflict economic harm on the American people is the quintessential dog-bites-man story, being the effect of practically everything they ever do. "Dems intentionally hinder U.S. economy" would be about as remarkable a headline as "Coyotes Miss Playoffs" or "Bette Midler Tweets Something Stupid." They're Democrats. Robbing the American people of the just rewards for their labor and ingenuity is what they do.
There's no reason for the media to hold their party accountable for its destructive policies when even their opposition declines to press the issue. So the federal government is deliberately ratcheting up the cost of living on the American people through a constitutionally dubious process, which is unjustly punishing consumers and producers alike. So what else is new?
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