05 August 2019

Tariffs - the one (and possibly only) thing Trump has right (even if it's for the wrong reason)

Lets be clear on one thing up front:
Trump is a joke who somehow got himself elected.  He is an egotistical, narcissistic blow hard who was given a company, bankrupted it, was bailed out by his rich family, went bankrupt a second time, and was bailed out by family money again.  He is a hypocrite, a xenophobic nationalist, a chronic liar, and a reality TV star, who is really only good at one thing, which is self-promotion (although he has been so good at that that he has gotten many many people to give him money, and ultimately, to vote for him.) 
But even the most idiotic of people can accidentally do something right.

It was so-called "neoliberals", pro-business and pro-capitalism, essentially conservative in economic principals, who in recent years pushed "free trade" on us.
Really, it goes back even further, with imperialist countries using every means possible, up to military force in some cases, to "open markets" in foreign countries, whether the locals wanted it or not.
More recently the US has staged coops and rigged elections in order to get foreign governments willing to do business with US corporations.
And while this had obvious benefits for those corporations themselves, it has always been coupled with local jobs dissolving, which in turn has been one of the primary driving forces behind stagnating wages, especially for what was once the middle class.

Progressives, socialists, unions, the working class and those who support global human rights and economic stability for the developing world were all once united in opposition to so-called free-trade, globalism, the WTO and NAFTA, the opening of foreign markets by any means necessary, outsourcing and overseas manufacturing.

The whole reason overseas manufacturing is appealing to corporations, why its cost effective despite the enormous cost of shipping something literally around the world, is because other places have few or no minimum wage laws, worker protection laws, or environmental laws.

Not only does it cost US jobs, (and in the process reduce wages for everyone who does still have a job, as wages in a free market economy are supply and demand based just like goods), but it also means more environmental damage (and injured workers with no recourse) for the nation building us all our cheap crap.  Factories move in not because it is what the citizens want, or because it is good for them, but because corporations make deals with the countries' governments.

Analysts and newscasters warn that not having access to cheap chinese goods mean prices will go up for US consumers.

1) That's not necessarily true.  When outsourcing manufacturing first began, prices dropped slightly, but much of the corporate cost savings went to profits and shareholder dividends.  Corporate profits have been high for decades, which means there is margin there for manufacturing costs to increase without retail prices increasing, and without businesses going bankrupt.

2) If prices go up for US consumers... GOOD!  We don't need so much cheap crap!  We don't need iphones for every man woman and child, and cheap big screen TVs and trinkets of every imaginable variety at bargain basement prices.  The US has one of the highest standards of living in the world, not only the rich, but the working class and even most of the poor in the US have access to things much of the people of the world don't dream of. 
We should absolutely be paying the real cost of all our stuff!
That means paying the cost of environmental protection laws, worker protection laws, and reasonable living wages.  If those things were all equivalent in China as they are here, it wouldn't be cheaper to ship goods 8000 miles or so - mostly by ships which use 16 tons of fuel per hour, or 3200 tons (of the dirtiest petroleum fuel there is) for a single trip - than it would be to just build factories in the US and ship no further than from one coast to the other by land.  The only reason it is cost effective to spend several thousand extra per container is precisely because in China minimum wage averages $2.84 per hour, and we can pawn all our pollution off on Beijing.  We are not exactly doing any favors to the workers in China by exporting our low skill jobs there (never mind the human rights record of the Chinese government, which we happily overlook for the sake of trade agreements).

Another way to say "trade war", is countries on opposite sides of the world produce their own stuff to the extent they are able, and only ship things thousands of miles if there are things people need in one place that they are completely incapable of sourcing locally.

If we can agree that buying food local is best, it shouldn't be so hard to agree that the exact same principal applies to everything else as well.

Lets not get so bogged down in our hatred for the personality that we blanket condemn every thing he does, regardless of what it is.  Lets support him in undoing decades of outsourcing, and stop prioritizing corporations (whether Chinese or American) over workers and the environment.