Tariff Talk…

Have you heard?  Trump imposed some tariffs on washing machines and solar panels made outside the US.  I’ve seen some reports, since, about job loss in America as a result and I’ve seen the warnings about how washing machines are about to get more expensive.  As it happens, I’m okay with the new tariffs…with a nuance.  The nuance is that the solar panel tariff appears to fit right into Trump’s obsession with (or, more likely, investment in) 19th century energy sources.

I have not been much of a fan of so-called “free trade” agreements.  So far, they seem to have helped other countries at the expense of Americans.  I don’t have any heartburn helping other countries.  I have serious concerns about what that “help” has looked like.  Manufacturing has been moving to other countries as quickly as possible ever since Bill Clinton signed NAFTA.  The reason is simple: cheaper labor.  MUCH cheaper labor.

But it’s “cheaper labor” because those other countries don’t have nearly the same worker protections.  Occasionally, stories show up in our media about some foreign worker who chose to dive out a third story window rather than continue one more day in the fenced-in sweatshops that pay pennies a day.  “Free trade” has been instituted to the benefit of the corporations doing the trading, NOT the workers it was sold as “helping.”  It has contributed to the loss of middle class jobs in America and the rise of near-slave working conditions around the world.  To me, that’s some pretty expensive “cheap” labor…

A tariff is supposed to benefit manufacturing in it’s home country.  Some people call that “protectionist” and I suppose it is.  At this point, I think the American economy could USE a little protecting.  If the long term result is an increase in manufacturing in the US – as it should be – this country will benefit over time.  Yes, the solar panel installer work will experience a bit of a blip as suppliers change but those jobs will come back as US manufacturers ramp up and we’ll have the manufacturing aspect back as well.  It’s a bit of a win-win…

Yes, washing machines and solar panels might become a bit more expensive – but that’s because American workers cost more.  I’ll tell you this: Like it or not, Americans are going to have to make a choice: do you want the very cheapest possible products or do you want a strong manufacturing base supporting a stronger middle class in the US?

One thought on “Tariff Talk…

  1. I’ve said the same thing since the early ‘70s about buying “green”. Clean air and water cost more than dirty. Recycling may not be as cheap as throwing away and buying a new whatever. If we continued to buy the cheapest version of everything with our union protected wages, our fellow workers would be out of a job and there would be no one to buy the “high-quality” items we make. Consumerism can be complicated, as value and price are not exactly the same thing. We all wanted the cheapest airfare, and now we have tiny seats, pay extra for the simplest necessities, and are herded like the livestock we allowed ourselves to become.

    I saw a help wanted sign in Puerto Vallarta a few days ago and it was asking for an experienced salesperson at a small store. Six days a week, 8 hours per day, $1200 per week. That’s 1200 pesos! That’s about a dollar and a quarter per hour. Do we want to compete with that labor force?


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