He’s Mad Again
George Will savages Bush’s cave-in to steel interests in today’s column and, unlike yours truly, has some numbers to back it all up. Here’s why we’ll always need the pros:
Do not read his lips, read his actions, which will incite protectionist clamors from other industries (timber and textiles, for starters) and invite retaliation from penalized nations. Bush’s measures probably will neither force nor facilitate the restructuring the industry needs. Economically indefensible, these measures will destroy perhaps 10 jobs in the steel-consuming sector of American manufacturing for every steel-making job they save. Some manufacturers will move out of the country to avoid the tariffs.
Bush’s measures are new taxes on American consumers — approaching $1 billion annually just on purchasers of cars and trucks — and are purely political measures. Think of them as an $8 billion contribution coerced from manufacturers and consumers of steel products, for the benefit of about six Republican congressional candidates in steel-producing districts, and for Bush’s reelection campaign.
One more economic case to be made against these idiotic tariffs. Who cares if Russian steelworkers are unfairly competitive because they make less than $200 a week? And who cares if Russian mills are heavily subsidized? All that means is, we get cheapers cars and stoves, and Russian taxpayers — already poor — get poorer still under stiff taxation. We win, they lose, life is sweet.
Except Bush just threw away a big part of our competitive advantage, and angered our new Russian friends in the process. That takes a special kind of smarts.