Remember when Obama picked the 'winners' and 'losers'?
I have seen several critical news articles and a lot of television commentary about President Trump picking "winners" and "losers" with his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. The following is one example, from a Yahoo! Finance column:
President Trump has a soft spot for the steel industry. He clearly views steel as a symbol of national power, and has finally fulfilled a campaign promise by imposing new protective tariffs likely to increase profits for domestic steel producers.
Trump plans to impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. The details aren't clear yet, and it's possible these could end up more limited than Trump made them sound when he first announced them on March 1. But markets have reacted aggressively, punishing companies and industries likely to be harmed by the tariffs, while rewarding the few likely to benefit.
Amid a broad selloff, shares of companies such as AK Steel (AKS), U.S. Steel (X) and Nucor (NUE) rose, indicating a belief that tariffs will allow them to raise prices, increasing their net income. Same for aluminum makers such as Century Aluminum (CENX). Those are the winners Trump has chosen.
The basket of losers is a lot bigger – and it includes ordinary consumers.
In a sense, every economic decision made by a president leaves winners and losers. But some presidents are more direct about it than others. Trump's plan to impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum as a means of correcting unfair trade practices from abroad, falls into the less direct category. The details aren't clear yet, and it's possible these could end up more limited than Trump made them sound when he first announced them on March 1. But markets have reacted aggressively, punishing companies and industries likely to be harmed by the tariffs while rewarding those likely to benefit.
It's a relatively minor move and done expressly for correcting imbalances. There was another champion of picking winners and losers. That would be Trump's predecessor, who had a different agenda: advancing the progressive cause. We sat through eight years of President Obama's economic policies that consisted almost exclusively of picking winners and losers, often with actual names of companies in the bullseye. Obama's moves almost always raised prices significantly on consumers and businesses, and I don't recall much consternation in the media about the harm these policies caused. In fact, the press almost wholeheartedly supported everything he did. For example:
Obama's biggest claim to fame was Obamacare, which sought nominally to expand health insurance to more people but which, in reality, was a disguised bid to destroy private-sector health coverage, in a disguised bid to enact a single-payer system. Diabolical as it sounded, the Obama team is on the record for it. Obamacare did destroy competition, and with it, it took away freedom of choice and significantly raised insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and deductibles, on most consumers and businesses. There were plenty of winners and losers there.
Obama and his regulators also continually raised the compliance costs on all banks, through Dodd-Frank and other measures and this significantly reduced the number of small banks for business startups. The nominal winners here were big banks, but they didn't come out unscathed, either. Some bank executives were targeted for SEIU union thuggery in their homes, and big banks were shaken down for "community" purposes, which the Treasury turned into a slush fund for community organizers. It was a big payday for winners such as ACORN. Consumers were the big losers because the number of choices they had were reduced.
Energy was an even bigger area of Obama picking winners and losers, and here the corruption got epic. Obama continually rewarded unsustainable solar and wind companies to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies. A certain small class of hucksters running unsustainable companies such as Solyndra made out like bandits and taxpayers were left on the hook for $500 million. When the bills were sorted out after the company went bust, the Obama hucksters got paid first, despite mismanaging the company, and taxpayers were left holding the bag. Once again, winners and losers – as if that weren't bad enough, Obama sought to destroy and bankrupt fossil fuel companies and especially coal companies. His goal was to bankrupt coal companies, and his vice president, Joe Biden, said so quite explicitly. As for oil and gas, Obama blocked critical drilling and pipeline projects and hollered about how oil companies were "subsidized," when in fact they were not. He brought out the big guns when America's largest foreign investor, BP, had a bad accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009. He shook an unprecedented $4 billion in fines from the company and forced it to set up a questionably legal $20-billion cleanup cost trust fund, promptly triggering a gold rush from corrupt local governments inflating their costs. He also forced BP to put more than $1 billion of its fine in a special "discretionary" fund administered by his politicized Department of Justice. The money, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, was mismanaged. That certainly left a few winners among Obama's cronies. But it made consumers and the economy big losers with higher costs. Billionaires such as Elon Musk were big winners with his otherwise unsustainable Tesla "green" car project, because he got government subsidies for making fancy playthings for the rich.
People who wanted to protect wildlife were also big losers under Obama, because while he would fine oil companies if they killed protected birds, wind and solar panel farms, killed far more wildlife were treated much more softly. Meanwhile, the Animas River, which is a sacred waterway to Americans Indians in the Colorado region, was flooded with toxic chemicals in the Gold King Mine scandal in 2015, by Obama's Environmental Protection Agency. Not a one of those who committed the blunder was punished, yet American Indians were left holding the bag. Obama's winners and losers extended to many communities, as you can see – and even to the animal kingdom.
There was more: when Obama bailed out General Motors in 2009, he violated longstanding bankruptcy protocols by making unions big winners over secured creditors, such as bondholders, and other unsecured creditors, who by law were entitled to first priority on debt repayment. They and the taxpayers got left high and dry while Obama's favored unions got another winning chip. Politically unfavored unions, by the way, such as the Delphi Corporation workers union, got left high and dry, too, stiffed as the politically favored United Auto Workers got all they wanted.
President Obama declared that manufacturing jobs would never come back, and by his policies, he tried to make that a true statement.
Basically, the big winners in the Obama world were people who lived and worked around D.C., where they produce nothing but regulations. Several of the wealthiest counties are around D.C. If they didn't live around D.C., such as denizens of the Bay Area or Detroit, they did something to support Obama's campaign. There were definitely winners based on this criterion, and anyone outside it was a loser.
Those big losers were the rest of us, who suffered from a tremendously slow economy, stagnant wages, and regulations that unnecessarily pushed up costs.
So now let's go back to Trump and his tariffs on steel and aluminum and look to see if he's really picking winners and losers.
First, it is illegal for a large company such as Exxon to come into a city and sell gas at 50 cents a gallon until it chases out all its competitors.
It is also illegal for a big bank such as Chase to give loans at 1% until it puts all of its competitors out of business.
In both cases, in the short run, every individual and business would be a winner because of the lower costs. The only losers would be the businesses they bankrupted.
But in the long run, everyone would be a loser because of less competition. And once Exxon and Chase got a monopoly, they would be free to set any price they wanted. It would go up.
Similarly, it is against the best interest of Americans, for businesses from a foreign country such as China, to be able to dump products on the American market below their cost of production, even though consumers and businesses as a whole would be winners.
For trade that is fair to work, the foreign companies must price their products above a price that includes direct costs and overhead costs. It should also allow for a profit.
Tariffs should be imposed for dumping. The countries that got tariffs from President Trump had been caught dumping. The reason the tariffs have to be applied to other countries besides China is because China has a habit of shipping their products through third-party countries that don't have a tariff.
Reading and watching commentary from journalists and supposed experts saying how bad these fairly minimal tariffs are suggests they wouldn't care if China sold steel at $200 a ton (a very low price) and Saudi Arabia sold crude oil at $10 per barrel, because, after all, consumers and businesses would be winners. It seems they are shortsighted, because if American companies are bankrupted because of the dumping, we are in great trouble in the long run. President Trump is acting prudently with these tariffs.
I have seen articles giving examples of some of the losers under the tariffs, and the one I really got a kick out of was beer-producers. It seems that their costs would go up two tenths of a percent because of the increased aluminum prices. Therefore, a $15 case of canned beer would go up three cents, or less than two tenths of a cent per can. I bet Budweiser, or the consumer, could afford that.
The big winner in the economy so far under Trump is...the economy as a whole, because of tax cuts and regulatory cuts for almost every individual and business. Trump, unlike Obama, doesn't really seem to care what race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation anyone is, let alone how much cash was contributed to his campaign, when he picks winners. Manufacturing and energy jobs are also winners. The big losers are government bureaucrats who are seeing their power reduced.
It is nice to have a president who is trying to transfer the power and freedom back to the people instead of the other way around.