03/13/2018

My Bill Would Help Restore Congressional Authority On Tariffs

Sen. Mike Lee, Daily Signal

If you work in manufacturing, your job was just put at risk.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an order imposing a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports and a 25 percent tariff on steel imports.

The official rationale behind the tariffs is that a reduction of skilled smelters in the United States threatens national security. Supposedly, we don’t have the requisite domestic steel and aluminum production capacity to build the weapons of war needed to defend the country.

Never mind the fact the Pentagon currently uses just 3 percent of our domestic steel output and 5 percent of our domestic aluminum output.

The real reason Trump announced higher tariffs on Thursday is that he wants to protect American jobs. This is a worthy goal. Unfortunately, since tariffs work just the same as tax hikes, and tax hikes kill jobs, Trump’s tariffs will almost certainly backfire.

As we’ve seen throughout history, imposing protectionist tariffs such as these often have crippling, unforeseen results. If you raise tariffs on a product, the increased cost will get passed on to consumers. These tax hikes will hit loggers in the northwest, farmers in the plain states, and my own constituents in Utah.

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Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

 

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