May 7, 2019

Increased Tariffs on Chinese Goods

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

“Accusing Beijing of ‘reneging’ on commitments it made in earlier talks, the nation’s top trade negotiator said Monday that the Trump administration will increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes the tariffs for hurting US consumers, and worries about an escalating trade war.

“According to a paper published [in] March by economists Mary Amiti of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Stephen J. Redding of Princeton University and David Weinstein of Columbia University, practically all of the effect of the tariffs ‘fell on domestic consumers and importers up to now, with no impact so far on the prices received by foreign exporters’... the total cost of tariffs on importers and consumers was nearly $1.4 billion a month. In another survey, researchers at the Federal Bank of Atlanta, the University of Chicago and Stanford concluded that tariffs had led to nearly $33 billion worth of reduced investment in the U.S. in 2018 alone.”
Luke Barnes, ThinkProgress

“The real worry financial markets always have about tariffs… is not so much the tariffs themselves as what comes next. China could retaliate by cutting purchases of American agricultural goods, buying European airplanes rather than American airplanes, or trying to bias the domestic Chinese auto market against American brands. At that point, talks aimed at deescalation might get back under way. But the US could also counter-retaliate. This kind of ‘trade war’ between the world’s two largest economies could spiral out of control and end up severely damaging the global economy.…

“Trump’s aides tend to say that this is all overstated. That the basic reality is the US economy is in a strong position, that Chinese leaders’ own position is more tenuous, and that Trump is simply an aggressive negotiator playing for advantage. On the other hand, obtaining that advantage requires him to credibly act like someone who doesn’t understand — or doesn’t care about — the potential harms of a giant trade war. The problem is he’s sometimes much too convincing about it.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Some note that “Trump can’t make any permanent trade agreements unless Congress agrees. That’s a long process he hasn’t even started. Instead, Trump is using executive authority, which lasts only as long as he is president. Any promise he makes to China will expire on January 20, 2021, just 21 months from now, unless he is reelected. The Chinese know this. That’s why they are in no hurry to make the kind of deals Trump wants. He might ‘encourage’ them with threats and maybe even higher tariffs. But then he risks crashing the markets. So, China’s best negotiating strategy is to wait, which they do very well.”
Patrick W. Watson, Forbes

Finally, many are criticizing the Trump administration for “[relenting] on imposing sanctions on key Chinese officials involved in carrying out human rights abuses in Xinjiang… in a bid to supposedly counter terrorism, Beijing has set up a vast system of ‘reeducation camps’ to dissuade the region’s predominantly Muslim Turkic minorities, including Uighurs, from embracing religious extremism. Advocates and Uighur exiles abroad point to a totalitarian dragnet that has disappeared a chunk of the region’s population and ushered in a draconian 21st-century surveillance state… [the failure to address this behavior is a] glaring absence in Trump’s showdown with China.”
Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post

“The main question about the strike isn’t moral or even legal—it’s strategic. Soleimani was a supremely powerful leader of a state apparatus, with his own cult of personality, but he was not a terror kingpin. His death doesn’t decapitate anything. He had the blood of tens of thousands of people—overwhelmingly fellow Muslims—on his hands, but he was only the agent of a government policy that preceded him and will continue without him…The only reason to kill Soleimani is to enter a new war that the United States can win… [Yet] No one seems to have thought past the action itself…

“What would [a] war [with Iran] look like? How will Iran fight it? How will the U.S. respond? What credible allies will we have, after Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal thoroughly alienated Europe? Who will believe any intelligence about Iran’s actions and intentions from an administration that can’t function without telling lies?…What is our war aim, and how can it be aligned with Trump’s obvious desire to be rid of any entanglement in the region? What will happen if Jerusalem becomes a target and Israel enters the conflict? What will the American people accept by way of sacrifice, when nothing has prepared them for this? There’s no sign that anyone in power, least of all the president, has even asked these questions, let alone knows how to answer them.”
George Packer, The Atlantic

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is critical of China’s trade practices, and supportive of Trump’s tough negotiating tactics.

From the Right

The right is critical of China’s trade practices, and supportive of Trump’s tough negotiating tactics.

Beijing has too often violated the global trading rules it agreed to and profits from. It steals trade secrets and intellectual property and handicaps foreign companies with punitive regulation. Chinese abuses have undermined political support for free trade in the U.S… There’s no denying that [Trump’s] border taxes on Chinese goods have prodded Beijing to negotiate, though tariffs have also imposed costs on U.S. consumers and producers, especially in agriculture...

“Mr. Xi has to concede more than Mr. Trump does—without being embarrassed in the process. China already has largely free access to the U.S. market and rule of law. China’s main demand is that Mr. Trump lift his tariffs, which is reasonable if China agrees to cease its multiple trade violations. This includes protections for IP, a reduction in tariff rates toward U.S. levels, a reduction in subsidies for state-owned companies, more liberal rules for joint ventures, and an end to cyber theft.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The president’s tough line now—heading into the final stretch of negotiations—will reduce friction later. China is less likely to cheat on any future agreement if it needs to comply to earn a reduction of these tariffs. China will cheat if the U.S. has no tariffs to enforce it… China has a long history of quickly breaking promises to the West. From refusing to abide by the rules of the World Trade Organization after it joined in 2001 to abandoning President Xi Jinping’s promise to President Obama not to militarize the South China Sea, Beijing’s record makes strong enforcement mechanisms a necessary precondition to any U.S. agreement to a deal.”
Michael Pillsbury, Wall Street Journal

Trump’s “policy is right on the mark here. Chinese President Xi Jinping intends to destroy the U.S.-led international system of fair commerce under the democratic rule of law. He aims to replace it with one of intellectual theft and feudal mercantilism. China is playing games in the trade negotiations to protect that agenda. But Trump's tariffs and other economic actions challenge Xi by jabbing at his unelected regime's economic vulnerability.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“The trade war is, to a large extent, a conflict over the Chinese Communist Party’s most important means of keeping itself in power: subsidies and the state sector… significantly changing China’s trade practices would mean forcing the Chinese Communist Party to upend a core piece of what is holding its fragile political system together… [But] from the American perspective, the costs of living with these trade practices are far too high to justify perpetuating an unreformed trade relationship with China…

“If the United States is determined to no longer bear the painful consequences of China’s trade practices, it can either get Beijing to significantly reform its economy—extremely unlikely given the nature of Chinese politics today—or it can decide to curtail the trade relationship… sooner or later, American policymakers will have to face this reality and the uncomfortable implications of it.”
Nick Taber, The American Conservative

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

Artificial Intelligence creates never-ending death metal.
Science Focus

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