Koch Brother on Trump Tariffs: Ignore National Security and Jobs for Profits and Cheap Imports

U.S. Steel Production
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As President Trump made history signing into law his tariffs on steel and aluminum to protect American workers and U.S. industries, GOP megadonor Charles Koch called on “corporate leaders” to “reject” the decision.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Charles Koch — one-half of the pro-mass immigration Koch brothers — urged corporations and chief executives to ignore the national security and job interests of the U.S. and instead focus on profits and cheap imports when it comes to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Koch writes, opposing Trump’s tariffs:

The same has been true throughout history. Countries with the freest trade have tended to not only be the wealthiest but also the most tolerant. Conversely, the restriction of trade — whether through tariffs, quotas or other means — has hurt the economy and pitted people against each other. Tariffs increase prices, limit choices, reduce competition and inhibit innovation. Equally troubling, research shows that they fail to increase the number of jobs overall. Consider the devastation of cities such as Detroit, where trade barriers to aid the auto industry did nothing to halt its decline.

The administration’s recent decision to impose major steel and aluminum tariffs — on top of higher tariffs on washing machines and solar panels — will have the same harmful effect. Without a doubt, those who can least afford it will be harmed the most. Having just helped consumers keep more of their money by passing tax reform, it makes little sense to take it away via higher costs.

One might assume that, as the head of Koch Industries — a large company involved in many industries, including steel — I would applaud such import tariffs because they would be to our immediate and financial benefit. But corporate leaders must reject this type of short-term thinking, and we have. If we are to have a system in which businesses can succeed long term, policies must benefit everyone, not just the few.

Koch, however, does not mention the reason Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross first requested the 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum or why Trump has now made those tariffs official: National security.

The Trump administration says that the tariffs are crucial to making the U.S. a sustainable nation again that does not rely on foreign countries like China, among others, for cheap steel and aluminum imports.

Trump’s tariffs are designed to protect three components of national security:

  • The national defense base where the U.S. is able to build war-fighting equipment without relying on a foreign country for steel and aluminum imports
  • Maintaining a domestic infrastructure for steel and aluminum
  • Retaining a strong, growing steel and aluminum workforce of Americans

These measures, along with the American jobs that have been lost due to free trade, went ignored by Koch, who has also opposed Trump’s efforts to reduce legal immigration levels to raise the wages and quality of life for American workers.

Free trade agreements like KORUS and NAFTA helped open up overseas markets for multinational companies to outsource their American manufacturing jobs to countries like Mexico, leaving millions of Americans laid off in the process.

For example, massive trade deficits due to free trade with Mexico have left the once-booming working and middle-class Rust Belt region crumbling, with a net total of about 700,000 U.S. jobs displaced, including:

  • 14,500 American workers displaced in Wisconsin
  • 43,600 American workers displaced in Michigan
  • 2,600 American workers displaced in West Virginia
  • 26,300 American workers displaced in Pennsylvania
  • 34,900 American workers displaced in Ohio
  • 34,300 American workers displaced in New York
  • 6,500 American workers displaced in Iowa
  • 24,400 American workers displaced in Indiana
  • 34,700 American workers displaced in Illinois

One former steel town in West Virginia lost 94 percent of its steel jobs because of NAFTA, with nearly 10,000 workers in the town being displaced from the steel industry. Since China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, there have been 3.2 million American jobs lost with 2.4 million of those jobs coming from the U.S. manufacturing sector.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.


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