Time for tariffs

The lead article in the Sunday Business section Nov. 18 extensively quotes Michael Kurtz, economics professor at Lycoming College, on tariffs.

Kurtz asserts that tariffs are taxes on goods. Such taxes, he reminds us repeatedly, raise the price of goods to consumers. And that, Kurtz says, is always bad.

But that’s not true. For example, the class-action settlements that raised the price of cigarettes so high are taxes meant to discourage smoking. Smokers are now tax-induced to smoke less or even to quit, and non-smokers are exposed to less smoke. The result is an indisputable improvement in the public’s health. Thus a tax can raise prices to the consumer — and benefit the consumer, too.

And the same is true of tariffs. As a tax, tariffs raise the price of protected goods to American consumers. But the present Trump tariffs also serve the common good of all American citizens. He is using tariffs as a club to get a “fairer deal” on American goods–note the recent new agreements with Mexico and Canada.

A European study shows Americans are paying 4.5% of the recent 25% tariff on some Chinese goods while Chinese exporters have decreased their prices 20.5%.

When America was young, the U.S. imposed tariffs on industrial imports to protect its young industries. Such tariffs saved these immature businesses from being crushed by foreigners’ more advanced industries, especially England’s. These tariffs prevented England from economically dominating America just like the Revolutionary War prevented England from dominating America politically. And the taxes raised by the tariffs went to the Treasury to pay for the federal government’s operations which benefited a growing America.

Later, when America’s industries were developed and strong, the U.S. no longer needed protective tariffs. The country then favored free trade. America was ready to compete with the world!

So it’s time again for tariffs. Children need protection when they’re young and undeveloped. And adults need protection when they’re seriously ill or injured. The American steel and aluminum industries, for example, are seriously ill and injured in large part by unfair trade deals. Tariff protection is again needed until American industries can return to their previous health. And then, like a strong America, strong American industries will again benefit Americans.

Robert Jacques

James Stuchell


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