The Corner

Economy & Business

A Left-Winger Defends Trump’s Tariffs

(Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

“Don’t Worry About Trump’s Tariffs,” Josh Bivens advises us in the New York Times. His case:

1) Some of the criticisms of the tariffs are “overblown.” For example, they’re not going to lead to a recession. I have read, probably, 200 articles about the tariffs over the last week, and have not yet run into any prediction that they will cause a recession. But I’m willing to stipulate that some people are making hyperbolic criticisms, and that, as Bivens writes, “the proposed tariffs won’t end the world.” (Hooray?) Both points are compatible with the tariffs’ being a very bad idea.

2) The tariffs, Bivens writes, are “temporary relief for specific sectors (steel and aluminum) facing a specific problem (global excess production capacity, propped up by foreign governmental subsidies).” Actually, Trump says that the tariffs will last a long time, and they are not targeted at countries that subsidize their industries. They apply to all countries regardless of how they behave. (And yes, I’m repeating myself on this point.)

3) We make other countries protect intellectual property for the benefit of the software and pharmaceutical industries, Bivens notes, so why not depart from free-trade principles to help the aluminum and steel industries? To the extent this argument is at all successful, though, it’s an argument for doing less to help the software and pharmaceutical industries. It does nothing to answer the specific objections raised against steel and aluminum tariffs, such as that they damage the many industries that use steel and aluminum.

4) The question we should ask in evaluating an economic policy, Bivens concludes, is: “Is it good for the bottom 90 percent of American workers and the families they help support?” You might think that an attempt to defend the tariffs would offer some reason, any reason at all, to think that the answer is yes. But Bivens just leaves the question out there without even attempting to make the case that the tariffs actually are good for the vast majority of Americans. I suspect there’s a good reason for that omission.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Culture

Four No Trump

I went to see Book Club, a multi-pronged romantic comedy that provides a vehicle for four veteran actresses (Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen), and it's not bad if you accept it for what it is. The set-up is that four women who formed a book club in the 1970s have been meeting ... Read More
Culture

Are Americans Too Attached to Their Pets?

Like many Americans, I’m a big fan of dogs. As my wife and I prepare to become empty-nesters, I’ve noticed that we’re spending more time obsessing over our family pooch, perhaps because he actually still wants to hang out with us. In recent years, however, our society’s relationship with pets appears to ... Read More
White House

Trump the Outsider

Yesterday morning, President Donald Trump offered a series of tweets complaining about what he considers the disparate treatment of his presidential campaign compared with Hillary ... Read More
World

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Wins, America Loses

Derek Scissors of AEI has a sour take on the latest turn in U.S.–China trade talks: If there’s good news, it’s that the Trump administration has fallen silent on whether the U.S. will bend our law for China in the ZTE case, which got so much attention last week. That would be a big step backward. But even ... Read More
Culture

Jonathan Swift in a White Suit

In 1965 Tom Wolfe visited Princeton University for a panel discussion of "the style of the Sixties." The author of The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, published that year, was scheduled to appear alongside Günter Grass, Allen Ginsberg, and Paul Krassner. Grass spoke first. The German novelist's ... Read More
Culture

Comedians Are Catching On

The comedians are beginning to catch on. Over the weekend -- just one week after featuring a bevy of top-line Hollywood stars impersonating members of the Trump administration, as well as a cameo by a vengeful Stormy Daniels asking for President Trump’s resignation -- Saturday Night Live finally acknowledged ... Read More
PC Culture

The Nature of Progressive Insensitivity

Former vice president Joe Biden is back in the news yet again. For a second time, he seems surprised that poor residents of the inner city are capable of doing sophisticated jobs: We don't think ordinary people can do things like program, code. It's not rocket science, guys. So, we went and we hired some folks ... Read More
Culture

The Feminization of Everything Fails Our Boys

Let me share with you two troubling — and, I believe, closely linked — news reports. The first, from this weekend, comes courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry. In one chart, he highlights the dramatic and growing gender gap in higher education. In short, women are dominating: ... Read More