KNAPP COLUMN: Biden’s Latest Trumpian Tariff Scheme: Buying Your Vote With Your Money

Published 8:30 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

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“President Joe Biden,” USA Today reports, “is raising tariffs significantly on electric vehicles, semiconductors and several other goods imported from China, moves his administration says are meant to ‘level the playing field’ in sectors where the Biden administration has made major investments.”
The USA Today story notes, in passing, one of the two real reasons for Biden’s latest Trumpian scheme:  He’s “courting the support of working-class voters in Midwest battleground states including Michigan, the center of the U.S. auto industry.”
The other reason is to court campaign  donations (financial and in-kind, direct and indirect) from various lobbying groups, including labor unions and American businesses.
“Level the playing field” is code for “tax American consumers so that American businesses and workers don’t have to compete with foreign products on price for value.”
Tariffs are not levied “on” the tariffed goods. They’re levied “on” the BUYERS of the tariffed goods.
If you’re in the market for an electric car, computer, solar panel, etc., Biden’s plan is to jack the prices up on some of your options (made in China) so that you’ll be more inclined to buy from the voters, labor unions, and businesses he’s “courting” with your money.
The “investments” Biden brags about making come out of your pocket as well. He’s forking over billions of dollars in corporate welfare to build factories for his friends in Big Business and maybe (maybe) provide better jobs for voters he wants to like him more than they like Donald Trump this November.
It’s the same game Trump himself played before, and pledges to play again, if he wins the presidential election.
The real case for tariffs, once we set aside “level the playing field” nonsense, is that tariffs let crooked politicians reward their friends and the voters they’re targeting … with your money.
That’s also the main argument AGAINST tariffs, but there are others.
One of the most important, to steal a phrase, is the “national security” argument. Trump and Biden have both used “national security” as an excuse for imposing trade restrictions in the past, but they always get it backward.
Free trade promotes peace. The freer the trade, the less likely war is to break out, for the simple reason that when two countries’ economies depend on trade with each other, they’re less likely to go to war with each other.
The opposite is also true. As Otto P. Mallery wrote, “If soldiers are not to cross international boundaries, goods must do so. Unless the Shackles can be dropped from trade, bombs will be dropped from the sky.”
I don’t know you; I don’t know if your vote is up for sale to the highest bidder.
If it isn’t, you should keep in mind what Biden and Trump have both done, and promise to continue doing, to you.
If it is, I hope you can do better than a Pawn Stars style “best I can do is raise your cost of living and increase your risk of death in a nuclear exchange.”