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Assault on America, Day 138: Trump trade policy won’t let China dictate how we shop, live or eat

Trump on China trade
Many of us learn about trade early in life. As kids we naturally assigned special value to certain items -- such as baseball cards or Beanie Babies (so yesterday, right?) -- according to how much they meant to us personally. As a boy if you liked one player more than another you’d require more “value” in a potential deal with the kid next door.

“Alright, I’ll give you Reggie Jackson and Johnny Bench for Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey and Nolan Ryan, okay?” “No way, I’m gonna need all those guys plus Rod Carew. I don’t care about Reggie but Bench? The Big Red Machine? Come on?!”

It isn’t complicated. All sorts of skills were ingrained during such “negotiations” sessions -- persuasion, cost/benefit analysis, communications techniques, gaging body language -- a lot of it comes naturally. And if you assess that your trading partner isn’t all that shrewd you might even hold out for a better deal. All’s fair in love, war and goods trading.

What’s going on in the back-and-forth trade talks between the United States and China today isn’t all that different than those elementary school card swaps from our youth. President Donald Trump’s drawn waves of criticism -- and some praise -- for his willingness to keep his campaign promise to slap significant tariffs on Chinese goods if China’s leaders wouldn’t agree to end their destructive trade practices. The Chinese haven’t taken the demands lightly and are retaliating with boosted tariffs of their own.

Some think it’s about time someone in America stood up to the Chinese business bullies. Conservative economist and self-confessed free trader Stephen Moore wrote at The Hill, “The average tariff that we imposed on China when Trump entered the White House was about 4 percent. China’s tariffs on us were about 10 percent and, even when including the 10 percent tariff that Trump first imposed on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports in 2018, our tariffs were still lower than theirs...

“Even the widespread complaint that the cost of these tariffs will be borne by American consumers may be exaggerated. The last round of tariffs at 10 percent had minimal impact on import prices — suggesting that Chinese companies absorbed the tariffs out of their profits rather than raising prices on goods sold at Walmart. The Chinese swallowed much of the cost themselves...

“This U.S.-China trade dispute is the first skirmish in what is likely to become the epic economic battle of our lifetime. The future of free and fair trade is much better enhanced if Trump wins. If China forces the United States to back down, free trade will suffer a mortal wound. This would be very bad news for free traders, and for global prosperity. And it is why Trump must win — and will.”

Yes, and it will be yyuuugggeee, if purists would only pipe down, breath into a paper bag and consider what’s at stake in the big picture here. Trump’s enemies are merely using the “tariff” word as a scary bludgeoning tool to make the ill-informed and easily intimidated run to their congressmen and senators demanding they do something about the out-of-control Trump.

What this sizeable group of consumer-obsessed sissies don’t realize is they’re already losing a trade war with China -- if it isn’t completely lost already. If you’re ever bored during a visit to the store try a fun little fact-finding mission: look at the labels of the goods on the floor to see where the product was made. Chances are if you’re at Walmart, Target or Costco it’ll be a while before you discover anything stating “Made in the U.S.A.”

I once tried it (while grandparents were buying the kids school clothes) and it took about twenty minutes to encounter a single American manufactured offering -- and it was a plastic laundry basket. Electronics? Forget it. Appliances? Not a chance. China’s taken every good idea American inventors came up with and broke it down to replicate -- and cheated -- their way into enticing you to buy it.

As Moore indicated in his piece, there’s really no such thing as “free trade” in today’s universe. Me-first nations such as China think nothing of fixing the rules in their favor. The Chicoms (as Rush calls them) levy high tariffs on imported products to protect their own industries, rip-off patents from western nations with more sophisticated developmental technologies, send their students to American colleges and universities to learn what we know and then try and enhance it, ignore intellectual property claims against them, reproduce music and movies without compensating the artists and… the list goes on and on.

And this isn’t even talking about the burgeoning Chinese military threat. It’s real and getting worse every day.

President Trump’s 2016 campaign highlighted the dilemma and vowed to do something about it, a strategy practically every American politician has employed since the beginning of time. Only when push came to shove previous presidents backed down in the face of pressure to bend, afraid that slightly higher prices at the box store would result in plummeting approval ratings and a discontented public. People have been spoiled, being able to purchase stuff that’s below market value because the Chinese government fosters consumer addicts -- and they’re getting them.

Yes, it’s true American farmers may lose the Chinese market for a period of time until the matter is resolved, a hurt that’s real and being felt across farm-heavy states. Trump is proposing using the added revenue from the tariffs to help farmers until things even out. Who knows what will happen. But it’s not like the American government can’t work a little harder to find buyers for Yankee produce. It won’t go to waste, put it that way. There won’t be a repeat of depression era price inflation tactics such as dumping milk on the road to slightly depress the supply.

Market fluctuations are encountered and absorbed in virtually every industry. Domestic energy producers are sometimes at the mercy of foreign conglomerates such as OPEC. Prices rise, prices fall. But in the long run Trump is doing the right thing by working to iron out the drastic imbalances now. If China succeeded in completely dominating all of the U.S. market -- and armed hostilities ever broke out -- just imagine the pain that would result. Think about it.

A precedent is being set here. Trump is establishing a new and more aggressively protective -- but fair -- United States trade policy. As he’s repeatedly offered, the president is willing to ditch all tariffs and allow completely free trade…and it’s the other nations that have answered no thanks. It’s about time the Chinese and all trade “partners” played by the same rules.

You wouldn’t let your neighbor friend take all your best baseball cards without getting good player value in return, would you? Would you allow him to cheat you if he moved here from China?

Nevertheless the free trade nincompoops and Trump haters are out in force dissing the plan before it even takes effect. Charles Hurt addressed them at The Washington Times, “The country that invented the assembly line, opened the West with the steam engine locomotive and built the world’s first skyscrapers has become a country run by silk stockings who don’t even dirty their dainty little hands with paper greenbacks anymore. It’s all digital…

“Whether it was bringing back steel and coal jobs, cutting ridiculous federal regulations, standing up to China or stopping the flow of illegal immigration across the Southern border, [Trump’s] entire campaign message was tailored to workers and people who want to see America get back to work again.”

Isn’t that what this is really all about? Who gets to “work” and who pays them? Why shouldn’t American manufacturers enjoy the same type of favoritism and advocacy from their government that their Chinese competitors receive on the other side of the world? What’s wrong with buying something that’s made down the street or across the country as opposed to having everything arrive on a ship and be transported to your local retailer via train and truck?

In all of this, remember it’s only temporary. The tariffs and levies will only last as long as the Chinese decide to hold out. They could agree tomorrow to even out the trade practices and everyone would go back to buying stuff they want at bargain basement rates -- and eating well, too. Shouldn’t this be the goal?

Donald Trump meant what he said when he chose “Make America Great Again” as his campaign mantra four years ago. Decade upon decade of feckless trade policy had a big hand in causing the U.S. to slip in competitiveness around the globe. With Trump in charge, we’re seeing a drastic change for the better.

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