One of the major planks in Donald Trump’s campaign platform, if not the top priority, has been a stalwart insistence that voluntary commerce and trade with other countries weakens America’s economy and costs American jobs. Moreover, he insists that he knows best how to manage it all in the best interests of America.
Indeed, Trump has not only proposed slapping a 45 percent tariff on all goods made in China, and massive tariffs on other countries like Japan and Mexico, but he repeatedly declares that he will personally impose punitive taxes on Ford Motor Company if it follows through with plans to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico. He has also threatened punitive penalties against Apple Inc. if it continues making iPhones in China. It would seem, like Barack Obama, Trump has his own autocratic pen and phone.
Some cheer at these proposals, believing that Trump will, as he puts it, “Make America Great Again” (a campaign slogan lifted directly from the Reagan campaign over thirty years ago). Of course, these populist/nationalist/protectionist proclamations and policies are nothing new. The Progressive Republicans a century ago, including Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover, all embraced them. Even earlier, they were central to the short-lived People’s Party, which was eventually swallowed by the Democrat Party’s progressive movement. However, the times of greatest economic growth and progress in America, resulting in the creation of the vast American middle class, grew not from government control and management of the economy by politicians and bureaucrats, but market capitalism. Perhaps I will delve further into this another day, but back to Donald Trump.
While Trump and his surrogates denounce free trade, proclaiming that they stand with and for America’s working men and women, they find it hard to explain away the billionaire’s own practices for most of his business career. As it turns out, Trump has never shown any qualms about using foreign labor, foreign capital and even foreign-owned companies to service his personal interests and acquire wealth.
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