As talk about tariffs engulfs much of our news, many are left asking: just what is a tariff and what does it do?
Tariffs are much like the out-of-state tuition that state colleges charge students whose families have not supported the college through taxes. Most state colleges require out-of-state students to pay more, and most people fully support that sensible requirement.
Similarly, tariffs help level the playing field between offshore manufacturers that escape the extra burdens and costs of operating a business in America and providing jobs to Americans. Requiring those foreign companies to pay more for the privilege of selling to American consumers is perfectly logical given how the foreigners have not been paying American taxes or complying with our regulations.
The resistance to tariffs comes from the same never-Trumpers who assured us that Trump could never be nominated or elected. White House Trade Policy Director Peter Navarro noted that nearly all the other presidential candidates opposed Trump on trade, but “guess what?” Navarro said. “He beat them.”
Thirty years ago, when Donald Trump was in his early 40s, his views on trade were much the same as they are now. He told Larry King that he was “tired of watching other people ripping off the United States.” He told Oprah, “I’d make our allies pay their fair share.”
Trump told Letterman that nations such as Japan have “totally taken advantage of the country. I’m talking about the [trade] deficits. They talk about free trade [but] they dump the cars and everything else.”
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who supports the Trump tariffs, observed that “Free trade hasn’t worked well for West Virginia.” Maybe that explains why Trump carried West Virginia with 69 percent of the popular vote, a whopping 42-point margin over Hillary Clinton in that formerly Democratic state.
Just as entrenched politicians in D.C. have blocked Trump’s efforts to build a Wall, they also protest too much at his effort to impose a few tariffs. Yet the approach of a tariff-less society has been a catastrophic failure for the American worker, so it is time to try the approach that originally made our country great.