L&T Publisher Earl Watt
America has been losing jobs at alarming rates, and most have been just fine with that if it meant cheaper prices at the store. The problem is that mentality is self destructive and can no longer be the guiding light in a world economy.
It is not an uncommon business tactic to charge a low price until all competition is eliminated, and then the remaining business can charge any rate once there are no longer competitors.
When America broke free from England in the 1780s, the colonists were not as good as the British at making textiles. The British were mechanized while the colonists were not. All colonial textiles were hand-made at a high cost.
If consumers were only concerned with price, the colonists would have simply bought their clothing from the British and would not making textiles at all.
But American leadership knew that to compete in a world market, they would have to compete on textiles, so they place a tariff on British-made goods, increasing the price to consumers to make them competitive with American-made goods.
This provided the income to American companies and allowed them to catch up, and they were then able to compete on a global stage with the British.
For a while, American consumers paid higher prices, but they also employed more people in the textile industry.
Unfortunately, poor trade agreements have removed these protections over the years, and America’s market no longer looks out for itself.
Instead, we have tried to compete with countries that do not exercise the same care for their environment and employees that we do, we have tried to compete against countries with very low standards of living and suppressed wages, and while consumers receive a lower price at the store, they also see fewer job options as less and less manufacturing jobs are available, leaving only service-industry jobs.
Liberals try to tell you that is why we should be paying $15 per hour for part time fast food workers when the real problem is allowing our consumer dollar to be exploited by foreign powers.
We stopped protecting the American worker like the colonists did, and the results have been disastrous.
Conservatives also support this mode of thinking because they simply outsource the production of goods, cutting their operational costs, and importing the finished product back to the American consumer.
In both cases, the constriction of the American economy because of no worker protection has forced manufacturing to seek foreign options.
While consumers believe they are winning by purchasing cheaper products, they are also working inferior jobs as a means to purchase those products as one by one industries leave America.
This is why the consumer alone cannot dictate the free trade market. Someone has to also look out for the best interest of the workers who produce goods.
Many will try to tell you that mechanization has led to smaller work forces in America, not bad trade agreements. The only problem with that is data indicates that productivity of the American worker is at an all-time low.
For America to be competitive on the world stage, we have to protect our marketplace from cheap, inferior products by placing a tariff on foreign-produced goods.
By doing so, we will allow our industries to compete fairly, and the American consumer will be able to choose between domestic and foreign-produced goods.
Yes, foreign nations may also seek to place tariffs on our products.
But if they need our grain and our food to survive, it seems silly to tariff the products they need to prevent starvation.
Yes, they may place tariffs on our other products as well, but that will easily be replaced by domestic sales that will surely increase because the foreign competitors will also have a tariff.
And, it is more economically and environmentally friendly to sell finished products at home rather than abroad because shipping distances are shorter, cutting costs and emissions.
For a short time, consumers will see higher prices. For example, most televisions are manufactured elsewhere, and a tariff would cost that price to rise. But Americans would also start building televisions again, and those workers will have incomes to spend as well, stimulating the economy while also pushing the innovation of the product.
The alternative is to continue to watch the exodus of every American manufacturing job. The remaining workforce cannot achieve the income necessary to continue to purchase the foreign-made goods because you cannot base an entire economy on service only without producing goods. We can’t simply sell each other stuff made elsewhere and believe that we can survive. At some point, we actually have to produce something.
Does that mean higher prices for consumers? For a while, yes. But it also means a stronger economic base at home. It means stronger consumer spending because American workers are also American consumers, and they will have the incomes needed to purchase goods produced, rather American or foreign-made.
The costs may be slightly higher, but the buying power will be significantly higher.
If consumers truly want what is best for America, they will support foreign tariffs.