President Donald Trump’s strategic pivot toward tariffs marks the ascent of National Trade Council Director and former University of California Irvine professor Peter Navarro, who has warned Americans for a decade against committing “Death by China.”
President Trump’s anti-globalist “March Madness” is upending conventional wisdom by citing national security to place tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum; forcing the resignation of his National Economic Council Director, Gary Cohn; disruptively agreeing to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un; blocking the $177 billion foreign takeover of U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm; forcing Singapore-based to Broadcom to move back to America; and dumping Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with a tweet.
Navarro, as a professor at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business, built a reputation as a “heterodox economist” for embracing the blogosphere to attack mainstream economics’ full-embrace of “globalism.” Navarro sees globalism as a scam for a small number of crony elites to capture most financial benefits.
Navarro published Death By China in 2010 as a muckraker’s call to confront the dangers of America’s perilous 21st century dance with the economic imperialism of the Chinese Dragon. He warned that the Chinese had shown a unique political sophistication in co-opting America’s corporate elites with crony business deals;while politically pacifying Congress by purchasing $1 trillion of Treasury bonds to fund huge deficit spending.
The book sold enough copies to fund a documentary movie that developed a viral popularity on Netflix.
One of the few members of the elite to begin corresponding with Navarro was Donald Trump.
Trump and Navarro agreed that the Chinese Dragon was using “Weapons of Job Destruction” to eviscerate American manufacturing employment by systematically targeting industries supporting middle-class wages for conquest and transfer to China. China’s weapons included government intervention through access to cheap wages; unlimited low-cost loans; an undervalued currency; an absolute lack of any environmental consideration; and an endless stream of prison labor at subsistence cost to close the deals.
Navarro helped shape Trump’s early presidential campaign message to attack 15 years of bipartisan U.S. failure on trade that was destroying American jobs.
He joined the Trump administration, and just days after the Inauguration, President Trump signed his first Presidential Memorandum on Jan. 23, 2017, withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Navarro served in a less divisive role in the Trump administration for the next year, but he consistently advocated for big tax cuts. Having formerly run as a Democrat for Congress, Navarro shocked PBS by justifying corporate tax cuts as a major jobs issue:
“If you look at the tax plan the most important part for me is lowering the corporate tax rate. Why do I want to do that. It’s not to make corporations richer it’s because when we try to keep our production here and that tax rate is the highest in the world that corporate tax rate gives an incentive to General Motors and Ford to take their plants to Mexico instead of staying in Michigan.”
With congressional passage of the $1.5 trillion tax cut bill sending the stock market soaring and pushing Trump’s approval rate up by 8 points, it was inevitable that Navarro would re-emerge to battle for his trade views.
Disclosure: Chriss Street appears as an economics expert in three sections of Death by China. The documentary paywall has been removed and the movie is free on YouTube.