According to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the cause of the rising prices is not “just an inevitable economic force of nature, it is greed”. The Biden administration, following Ms Warren’s lead, unleashed the Justice Department’s antitrust division to find the culprits.
Strong stuff, but it’s actually about something: Greed is at the root of at least some of the high prices American consumers pay every time they shop. Yet the bad guys aren’t the companies lawyers for the Biden administration are targeting. The real culprit is closer to home: the White House’s own “worker-centric” trade policies, which rip off American consumers and help fuel inflationary price hikes.
The prices of appliances and similar household items are high because the Biden administration continued the trade wars waged by the Trump administration. High tariffs on imported steel and aluminum are passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices.
Mr. Biden can claim that his policies are “worker-centered” only because, in his eyes, some workers are more equal than others. Those of us who are not unionized metallurgists and metal producers — whose wages are supported by exorbitantly high tariffs — are consumers who pay more for our devices. Obviously we do not count. In Biden-land, it’s okay to pay favors to Mr. Biden’s workers while forcing consumers and other workers to foot the bill. Instead of greed, the White House, Ms. Warren and others have the nerve to call it “fair trade”.
Now they’re dressing her up as part of the planet preservation mission to reduce climate change. In November, the Biden administration agreed to convert some tariffs on EU steel and aluminum into quotas, but real price relief awaits a new deal on imports of steel made using production techniques respectful of the environment. Small amounts of so-called green steel imports will benefit from tariff suspension, while consumers will continue to pay artificially high prices.
No one in the Biden administration will ever say, “We like to raise the prices of most Americans by supporting a greedy tariff policy that favors a few politically friendly workers.” But that’s what they do. Nor will they mention that their approach is based on violations of international trade rules that the United States once led the way in encouraging — to prevent precisely the kind of political interference that has now become the norm. Nor will they recognize that they are pursuing Trump’s failed trade policies that conflict with both US domestic law and international trade rules and which Mr. Biden campaigned against in 2020.
American consumers and workers are not the only ones with stiff arms. White House Biden has thumbed its nose at other governments by refusing to join regional trade deals aimed at restraining China. He also punished American consumers by maintaining President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports. The Trump administration’s Phase 1 trade deal with China, which set unrealistic targets for Chinese imports of American goods, expired on January 1. climate change policy.
US trade policy has traditionally been two-party and aimed at reducing prices and increasing choices for consumers. Unfortunately, both sides have abandoned this approach. Instead, American consumers are held hostage by tariff-driven trade policies initiated by Mr. Trump and institutionalized under Mr. Biden.
Americans concerned about high prices can expect the government to point the finger at blame everywhere except its own “worker-centered” and, yes, greedy trade policies.
Mr. Walker served as the United States Deputy Special Trade Representative. Mr. Anderson served in the White House and the State Department under the Ford administration. Both are retired lawyers.
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Published in the print edition of January 5, 2022.