On tariffs, hold the hysteria

I am anti-protectionism, but I am also anti-hysteria. It’s not as though tariffs are an unknown phenomenon. As many have pointed out, President George W. Bush imposed tariffs of up to 30% on steel in 2002. They remained in effect for more than a year. And Ronald Reagan restricted imports of steel in 1984, and later imposed a 100% tariff on some Japanese electronic products. Somehow the republic survived.

And it isn’t as though tariffs and import quotas have become extinct. Imported clothing is subject to tariffs averaging 10% to 15%, and we have a domestic sugar beet industry, I believe, only because of quotas on cane sugar from the Caribbean. I haven’t noticed the press agitating to get rid of the tariffs we already have, even though the same economic arguments they now make–newly-discovered in some cases–would apply equally. Nor do I recall the press rushing to condemn Bernie Sanders’ protectionist views during the 2016 campaign.

This is all about President Trump, of course. If Trump came out for a big increase in the minimum wage, the Washington Post would suddenly realize that it would increase unemployment among minority youths.