WASHINGTON, D.C.- It looks like one group facing negative consequences from recent tariff salvos between the U.S. and others will get some relief. Not in the form of new markets with less unfair barriers, but in the form of taxpayer money to numb the pain.
“Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Tuesday unveiled a three-part, $12 billion plan to ease the sting of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farmers through a mix of payments, purchases and trade promotion efforts.
“This is obviously a short-term solution that will give President Trump time to work on a long-term trade policy and deal to benefit agriculture as well as all sectors of the American economy,” Perdue said on a call with reporters.
Perdue said the amount is in line with the roughly $11 billion in negative effects that USDA has calculated agricultural producers have suffered as a result of “illegal” retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and other major economies.”
This could be good news for farmers in the Old North State. Items like soy beans, hogs, and other agricultural goods that are big in North Carolina were specifically targeted by Europe, Canada, and China in retaliation for President Trump’s initial rounds of tariffs because they figured it’d hurt Trump the most politically.
Unfortunately spending $12 billion of other people’s money to give to a group hurt by the unintended consequences of an ill advised policy is not quite music to conservative’s ears.
Of course, others have a different take. Consider Sen. Thom Tillis (RINO-NC) for example, who is wondering what other taxpayer-funded freebies can be handed out.
“The administration’s trade aid plan is also a bid to shore up support among a slice of the rural electorate ahead of the midterm elections. But it has been criticized by some parts of the agriculture industry and is also sparking questions about whether other sectors suffering from retaliation will receive assistance.
“It can’t just be about agriculture,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Tuesday, adding that he is waiting for the administration to provide more information on its plan.”
This is what happens when protectionism is used as a negotiating tactic. Some may say, “you’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelette.”
That may be true, but the liberty-minded will want to know whose eggs are being broken? Some of these funds will be used to directly buy crops from farmers, subsidies plain and simple.
Leveling playing fields versus the current state of unfair trade deals is a laudable goal, but making bets with other people’s money and then paying off interest groups that are most impacted is not ideal, it’s Machiavellian.
It is antithetical to liberty and freedom, and was identified as such by a senator who’s been a steady critic of Trump’s trade policies.
“Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a vocal critic of Trump on trade, blasted the tariff aid as a way of giving farmers “gold crutches” and warned that the current direction of U.S. trade policy could lead to economic circumstances similar to the Great Depression era.
“America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world,” Sasse said in a statement. “This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again — they’re just going to make it 1929 again.””
Trump is used to negotiating business deals and has a reputation for getting projects done when the odds were stacked against him. Maybe Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel and others see the light and agree to tear down trade barriers, and we can ride into a free, unimpeded trade sunset.
Until that happens, though, it looks like protectionism and the improvised reactionary policies it necessitates will increasingly make for some policy announcements you may not have expected from a Republican presidential administration.
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