Biden Relentlessly Pursues Tariffs That Jack Up Prices and Harm Americans

P. Gardner Goldsmith | April 29, 2024

Americans who railed against Joe Biden and other political thugs who assumed “pandemic power” to lock down businesses and label some workers “essential” and others “non-essential” now have new opportunities to protest that mentality.

And, in doing so, they can see how they, too, might have bought into the pernicious act of government picking winners and losers - under a different guise.

In good ol’ Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “Man o’ the People” Biden on April 17 announced his plan to not only continue Trump-instituted tariffs against imported steel, but to expand and TRIPLE them.

This is immoral, economically destructive, and no different than the COVID-era mendacity of political elites picking favored “essential” and disfavored “non-essential” businesses.

Not surprisingly, Biden was speaking to a special interest block in the form of a labor union, exposing how easily the politician-special-interest relationship can be wielded to harm average American consumers.

Joey Garrison, of USA Today, writes:

“Biden, during an address Wednesday (April 17) to leaders of the United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh, called on his United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, to consider tripling the existing 7.5% average tariff rate on Chinese steel and aluminum under Section 301 of the Trade Expansion Act to 25%.”

Again, for those who support tariffs, for whatever reason, one hopes that they wake up to the reality that they are supporting the notion of government choosing “essential” and “non-essential” businesses and jobs.

That’s collectivism. It's immoral, and it's economically cataclysmic.

Most people likely recognize economic competition, which is the driver of better living standards and our ability to get more for less toil and expense. We welcome seeing one seller offer something at a lower price than the other seller.

But politicians and special interests such as unions weave narratives that the very same competitive activity, when conducted by people from outside the U.S., is malignant.

In Pittsburgh, Biden even dipped into the fairy world to claim that such competition was NOT competition, and Amtrak Joe is not the only politician to spread such idiotic nonsense.

Notes Garrison about Biden’s threat:

“With the move, Biden is borrowing from the trade playbook of former President Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee, who routinely raised tariffs on Chinese goods during his four years in office.”

The inescapable results of Trump’s tariffs were devastating.

As I noted in 2018, Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs even imposed a doubling of the tariff cost on beer-can makers. Automobile makers, building material manufacturers, and others saw higher prices, which, in large part, were translated into higher prices for consumers.

Thus, I added to lectures on economics this information, last year, for MRCTV:

“After 16 years of good ‘leaving alone,’ the Trump Administration in 2017 resurrected Section 201 of the 1974 “Trade Act” to ‘investigate’ the ‘too low’ prices of foreign-made dishwashers, washing machines, and solar cells. Then, after expression of their artificial ‘concern,’ and promotion of said ‘concern’ to special constituencies in Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee, where the bulk of US-made dishwashers and washing machines are manufactured, Trump took action. American consumers who wanted the freedom to buy less expensive washing machines and solar cells so that they could have money left over and invest or spend that on other items? They were not part of the calculus. They never are, when politicians cater to special interests. Thus, in January of 2018 the US imposed a massive tariff of between 30 and 50 percent on the above mentioned products – a trade barrier that added to consumer burdens and soon was recognized as economic poison.

The White House added to the problem in March of that year by imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum from every nation except Mexico and Canada, and, as a result, cumulative federal import taxes on Chinese goods soon rose to cost US consumers $50 billion each year, eventually bleeding $123 billion out of consumer pockets by the time Biden took over.

That money went to the U.S. government and to people like those anti-competitive union members who recently applauded Biden. It didn’t stay in consumer pockets, and it didn’t get spent on new investments, new businesses, or new jobs.

Tariffs not only are immoral threats by third parties against willing participants in market exchange, they also lead to more “rent-seeking” by new special interests who want to jump onto the government favoritism train, and force consumers to work harder for what they want.

To put it in easy-reference terms, I often show students the ancient “simple machines,” developed by cavemen to reduce the labor they’d have to employ in order to live. Things like the inclined plane and lever allowed one man to do the work that formerly required two men. That’s a good thing. It allows freeing-up of potential skills and labor, time, effort, and expertise, and opens up whole new fields of endeavor that would not have appeared if the second man were forced to keep working at the first task.

Tariff proponents can be likened to men of those times who might have pushed to get “caveman Biden” to prevent the use of the lever or inclined plane, claiming that allowing people to use such tools “puts the second man out of work.”

Of course, if that’s the case, and freeing up someone to be able to do something else is a bad thing, why not increase the toil needed to get what we want? Why not destroy the lever, the inclined plane, and get rid of labor-saving tools? Why not go further, and tie one arm behind a man’s back, forcing him to hire another man to do the jobs he might have been able to do alone?

Related: Upcoming Biden-Xi Meeting Sets Focus On Tragic US Tariff Errors

Work is not the goal of a market. Consumers throughout history have shown that they don’t want to LABOR more for the betterment of their lives, they want to labor less, be more efficient, allow for division of labor, and get things from others who focus on what they do well. Why engage in work you don’t do well if you have skills on which you can concentrate and you can leave the other work to specialists in their fields?

That’s what free trade is all about. And, as James Bovard notes in a powerfully important new piece for the Mises Institute, the history of tariff impositions in the US is one of politicians and bureaucrats picking and choosing “winners”, forcing consumers to pay more, and making all of us worse off.

We all lose when political thugs like Biden tell us they know better than we do how to peacefully spend our money. Their plans – like these new plans from Biden – are not peaceful, and the outcomes are unavoidable. They lead to higher costs for us, including opportunity costs that take away our choices to save, invest, and start new businesses.

In his book, “The Fair Trade Fraud,” Jim Bovard spells out that consumers are harmed eight-times the amount that special interests are “helped” when Biden-like politicians impose tariffs on foreign goods.

The real help that U.S. businesses could use, the help they need to become more competitive, is not the tariff. It is a removal of government “regulations,” wage mandates, and taxes that burden them so terribly.

The moral precept of leaving one’s neighbor in peace translates to leaving sellers and buyers to be free.

But Biden does not embrace that precept, and he continues the “essential” vs. “non-essential” collectivism with tariff threats.

Americans who opposed such political distinctions and edicts during the “lockdowns” can see the same arrogance in tariff mandates – and it’s a timeless lesson for all generations. If you know someone who supports tariffs, try saying to them, "Oh! So, you support economic central planning..."

Because that's the truth.

Follow MRCTV on X!