Tariffs and national self-interest

Patrick Buchanan provides a succinct summary of why Trump’s emphasis on tariffs in the relationship with China is hardly unprecedented.  In fact, one could say it’s a return to the policies that once made a young nation great:

A tariff may be described as a sales or consumption tax the consumer pays, but tariffs are also a discretionary and an optional tax. If you choose not to purchase Chinese goods and instead buy comparable goods made in other nations or the USA, then you do not pay the tariff.
China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China’s economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom.
Tariffs were the taxes that made America great. They were the taxes relied upon by the first and greatest of our early statesmen, before the coming of the globalists Woodrow Wilson and FDR.
Tariffs, to protect manufacturers and jobs, were the Republican Party’s path to power and prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries, before the rise of the Rockefeller Eastern liberal establishment and its embrace of the British-bred heresy of unfettered free trade.
The Tariff Act of 1789 was enacted with the declared purpose, “the encouragement and protection of manufactures.” It was the second act passed by the first Congress led by Speaker James Madison. It was crafted by Alexander Hamilton and signed by President Washington.

As Buchanan mentions, tariffs were once an integral part of an economic policy that became known as “The American System” — a policy so successful that other nations emulated it.  It’s worth noting the Federal government undertook its first infrastructure projects with almost no other source of funding other than tariffs (land sales being the main exception).  I’ll admit: I’m not a fan of the Federal government doing public works projects.  But the limited revenue stream tariffs provided kept such activity modest in the early republic, and for the most part it’s easy to see the wisdom of such projects as lighthouses, postal routes and the Cumberland Road.

Still, public works projects were controversial, even then.  Many in the South believed tariffs disproportionally benefitted northern industrial interests through protectionism and infrastructure.  Tariffs sparked the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina, and was cited as one source of discontent as States left the Union after Lincoln’s election in 1860.  Sectionalism aside, the nature of tariffs as a voluntary tax that promotes national self-reliance and internal growth recommends it as one of the best ways to fund a limited government.  Certainly, the explosive growth of Uncle Sam after institution of the Income Tax is evidence of that.  I’ve said before that a national sales tax would be preferable to an income tax (provided it didn’t result in both being in effect).  Many of the same reasons apply to tariffs.

Buchanan rightfully points out that abandoning so-called “free trade” for a tariff system that enforces fair trade will be painful in the short term, much like a junkie getting over their addiction.  American wages have been stagnant in inflation-adjusted terms since the 1970s.  The only reason we appear to have a higher material standard of living is the influx of overseas goods that appear cheap on the price tag, but which in reality take a heavy toll on the nation in terms of lost industries, disappearing jobs and a growing economic dependency on outsiders.  That doesn’t even take into account that many of the reasons goods made in places such as China are ‘cheaper’ is that they lack protections for workers and the local environment — impacts we considered so important here that we willingly added them to the economic burden of production.  In short, “free trade” as it’s currently practiced is an apples-to-oranges comparison that hides or downplays the negative aspects of globalism.

21st Century stories

This — not the social nonsense that seems to permeate our country — is what I was hoping for in the new millennium:

SpaceX completed an unprecedented 19th launch this year on Monday, while putting a U.S. record 64 satellites in orbit at once.

Additionally, SpaceX made history as the first company to fly the same orbital-class rocket three times. This Falcon 9 rocket’s large first stage, also known as the “booster,” launched and landed twice before, in May and August. Reusing rockets is key to Elon Musk’s space company, which hopes to make humanity “a multiplanetary species.”

SpaceX now dominates the global market of orbital rocket launches. Earlier this year, it debuted the Falcon 9 Block 5: The most advanced version of the workhorse rocket. Each Falcon 9 Block 5 “is capable of at least 100 flights,” Musk said in May. The billionaire entrepreneur said the SpaceX plans for Falcon 9 to be able to launch, land and launch again in 24 hours as early as next year.

The erstwhile astronaut in my inner child smiles… and continues to hope the price of a commercial ticket to space will one day be within grasp.

Break the shackles

Vox has an important post up noting that the tech giants have the ability to shut down any speech they dislike, because they control the popular platforms.  As he puts it, “stop fighting on their ground.”  It’s important to reach the public beyond an echo chamber, so it’s not necessarily wrong to engage on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  The problem is those platforms are strongly converged and in no way believe in unfettered free speech.  So if Christians, American traditionalists, classical conservatives and libertarians are going to continue to have a voice online, they are going to have to have alternative channels.

In other words, it’s time to break the monopolies.

I’ve already gotten into the habit of using DuckDuckGo for my online searches.  (In an era where “google” has become a verb, this has been an interesting exercise in habit-breaking.)  This avoids the way Google skews search results, and also denies them my traffic and data to track.  I strongly urge all my readers to do the same.

Other alternative platforms available and/or in development:

Instead of Google’s Chrome browser, try Brave.

Instead of the socially leftist Wikipedia, use Infogalactic for encyclopedic information.

Instead of YouTube (owned by Google), develop and view content on BitChute.

Instead of Twitter (which recently purged a number of conservatives and broke up a number of members’ “following” communities), try out Gab.

Instead of Facebook, look into Minds.

As time permits, I’m developing a presence on each of the above, and will eventually update the header on this blog so those who are inclined to do so can find me.  I’m still active on Twitter, but with the awareness they can shut me down at any point just like any other voice they want to silence.  The alternative sites listed above have publicly committed to free and open discussion.  What a concept.

Our use of a given platform is what gives it power and influence.  Stop feeding the tech giants who have already proven themselves hostile to anything short of Leftist conformity.  Support the efforts to break their stranglehold on the public conversation.  It will take time — and the breaking of deeply ingrained habits — for these alternatives to pose a threat to the stifled communities they are trying to supplant.

The rise of the Internet broke the information chokehold of the legacy corporate media.  It’s not surprising The Powers That Be have spent time and effort to reestablish that grip.  With your participation — and, more importantly, spreading the word — this new effort to break the monopoly again can flourish.

And so can the free exchange of ideas once more.

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In other news: water is wet

It appears humanity continues to need examples of why certain cherished economic theories simply don’t work:

A Panera Bread Co. restaurant in the St. Louis area where patrons have paid as much or little as they want for a meal for almost eight years is closing its doors.

Panera founder and executive chairman Ron Shaich told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the St. Louis Bread Co. Cares Community Cafe in Clayton, Missouri, is closing Tuesday because it was on a month-to-month lease and the store would have required a big investment. St. Louis Bread Co. is part of St. Louis-based Panera, which operates more than 2,000 bakery-cafes.

The nature of the economics did not make sense,” Shaich said.

The cafe opened in 2010 in an existing Panera-run restaurant blocks from the St. Louis County government buildings. The idea for the Clayton cafe was that people who could afford to pay the suggested price or more would do so, subsidizing those who could pay just a portion of the price or none at all.  ((i.e. “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need…”  — Jemison))

In the seven years since, “we served probably a half-million meals through this cafe, all at no set prices, as a gift to the community,” Shaich said in a phone interview with the Post-Dispatch. He said customers paid, on average, about 85 percent of the suggested price, proving, he said, “that people are fundamentally good.”

“We loved it, it worked well, it proved that the idea would work,” Shaich said.

No, it proved that the operation could continue only until it required an infusion of new capital, and those who could provide it decided not to throw good money after bad.  If they only averaged 85% of the suggested price, it was probably bleeding cash the entire eight-year run.  Heck, even the Soviet Union managed to stumble along painfully for 70 years until the contradictions of its economics caught up with it.  That doesn’t mean they were on to something.

Much more of this — now!

The Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), headquartered in Loveland, Colorado, for allegedly discriminating against U.S. workers in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The complaint alleges that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians in El Campo, Texas, because Crop Production preferred to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program.  According to the department’s complaint, Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility.  For instance, the complaint alleges that whereas U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them.  The complaint also alleges that Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment but hired H-2A workers who could not speak English.  Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A workers instead of U.S. workers.

The U.S. should not simultaneously have unemployment and programs to permit the hiring of foreign workers.  It’s long past time to take all the incentives out of the “guest worker” programs by making them prohibitively expensive for U.S. companies.  Guest worker visas should be so difficult to obtain that companies find it cheaper to offer retraining opportunities to American citizens than to import Indian or Chinese laborers. As retraining becomes more widely available, the government should also make clear that Americans who fail to take advantage of the opportunity will no longer be allowed to draw unemployment benefits.

This may all be part of the “dismal science,” but it’s certainly not rocket science.  Where globalists went wrong was in applying the principle of comparative advantage to international trade without taking into account that money, like water and electricity, takes the path of least resistance.  “Free trade” cannot be fair trade when one party (like China) doesn’t offer a minimum wage or the basic economic protections we’ve come to take for granted.  By allowing such lopsided relationships, we’ve sold our economic inheritance for pennies on the dollar at WalMart, while allowing practices we find abhorrent to flourish overseas.  This is hardly the U.S. leading by example.

Protecting American jobs may cause the prices of some goods to rise, but that’s literally a small price compared to allowing our economy–and its workers–to be undermined fatally by current practices. As Toby Keith sang:

“He’s got the red, white and blue flying’ high on the farm,
Semper Fi tatooed on his left arm,
Paid a little more in the store for a tag in the back that says USA

Hire American.
Buy American.
BE American.

America first.

Never forget September 11, 2001

Sixteen years.  That’s how long it’s been since the worst terrorist attack in American history.  A total of 2,996 people dead or never accounted for.  Symbols of American power struck without warning: both World Trade center towers and the Pentagon.  The actions of informed passengers on a fourth plane likely averted a strike on the White House or Congress.

An entire generation had horrifying visions of previously unimaginable events happening in their own nation, with memories firmly etched into their minds.

They say time heals all wounds. And for the families of those lost that day I hope there is some measure of truth in it. But there is a flip side: such events fade in the public consciousness, such that they no longer inform or shape how the nation acts. To quote the opening of the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring,”

“…some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth…” (click “continue reading” below to continue)

Continue reading

Cashing out

The powers that be are doing all they can to constrain the options of the average citizen who refuses to play their game.  The latest angle is to renew the push for a cashless society:

On Monday the European Central Bank President emphatically disclosed that he is strongly considering phasing out the 500 euro note.

Yesterday, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers published an op-ed in the Washington Post about getting rid of the $100 bill.

Prominent economists and banks have joined the refrain and called for an end to cash in recent months.

The reasoning is almost always the same: cash is something that only criminals, terrorists, and tax cheats use.

In his op-ed, Summers refers to a new Harvard research paper entitled: “Making it Harder for the Bad Guys: The Case for Eliminating High Denomination Notes”.

That title pretty much sums up the conventional thinking. And the paper goes on to propose abolishing, among others, 500 euro and $100 bills.

The authors claim that “without being able to use high denomination notes, those engaged in illicit activities – the ‘bad guys’ of our title – would face higher costs and greater risks of detection. Eliminating high denomination notes would disrupt their ‘business models’.”

The $100 is a “high denomination note?”  That might have been true 50 years ago, minus several decades of inflation eating away at purchasing power, but it’s hardly the case today.  One can easily spend that much now by taking a family of four to a restaurant.

And while any such proposals are always couched as trying to somehow make life difficult for “the bad guys,” there are some very real effects on law-abiding citizens here.  Governments around the world have exhausted their ability to “goose” the economy through artificially low interest rates (a policy, by the way, that penalizes the thrifty savers in society in favor of profligate borrowers).  Having taken that game all the way to zero — literally — now central banks have the bright idea of negative interest rates… which would potentially charge savers who hold their money in savings accounts rather than spending it.

So what is a thrifty family to do?  The best answer is to hold as much of your assets as possible outside of the increasingly corrupted financial system.  Cash is the most obvious way to do that.  But bankers know full well that if Americans returned to the days of stuffing mattresses with greenbacks, it would quickly become apparent there aren’t enough pieces of paper to go around — not by a long shot.  (For an example of this, watch the “bank run” scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”)

In addition to discouraging all the hoi polloi from asking for banknotes they don’t have, this move toward smaller denomination bills is meant to inconvenience cash transactions.  It’s not only criminals who like to use cash, although many in authority like to pretend that’s the main association.  There is still the rare family who literally saves their pennies for anything from a vacation to buying a used car.

Here’s the thing: if you paid $10,000 in cash for a vehicle you bought used from another owner, it would take carrying one hundred $100 bills.  Imagine that bill is eliminated.  The $50 is already a much rarer note in circulation, so the common alternative is the $20.  Now you’d need a stack of FIVE HUNDRED notes–more than a pound of paper –to pay cash.  And few people are willing to do that these days.  Yes, this is part of what the authorities want to do to “inconvenience” large criminal transactions.  But it will also push average consumers further into using what is already a largely digital world of commerce.

And that’s exactly what the powers that be want.  With digital transactions (credit and debit cards), privacy is greatly reduced and control greatly expanded.  I know there are still those full-blooded law and order types who’ll protest “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”

Baloney.  Plenty of innocent people have already had their bank account (vulnerable digital assets) wrongfully seized, after which they face a daunting process of proving their innocence in order to see any of it again.  But the real problem with the “you have nothing to worry about” premise is that the definition of “doing wrong” is often in the eye of those wielding any kind of power.  Think I’m kidding?  Ask the former head of Mozilla, who was forced to resign after those oh-so-tolerant liberals discovered his heinous crime of donating to a campaign against legalizing same-sex marriage.  Think about how the IRS went after political groups sympathetic to “Tea Party” small-government advocacy.  Now extrapolate that to a future where every book you buy, every movie/documentary you watch, every church contribution you make and even families you choose to support financially in some small way leaves a digital trail for those who disagree with you to follow and exploit.

There’s a term for this: it’s called a targeting system.  And if we’ve learned anything through the recent weaponization of government agencies, it’s that such targeting capabilities WILL be used to harass and silence anyone who dissents from public orthodoxy.  Completely ‘virtual’ banking and finance (a “cashless society”) will result in ‘virtual control’ over our ability to live freely and privately with our own consciences.

I’ve said this before, but am becoming more strident about it: it’s time to “abjure the realm.”  If you disagree with the direction the ‘soft fascists’ in our land are taking us, you need to separate yourself from their system as much as possible, because the net is continuing to tighten.  That means holding stores of wealth beyond their digital control, in forms like cash, precious metals or other tradable commodities that provide a good store of value.  Equally important, it means building networks of like-minded people who are willing to form communities that can exchange privately among themselves without every transaction being officially recorded and perused for potential political heresy.

In short, it means declaring your personal independence and intention NOT to be simply a compliant serf to the ruling order.  Does it take work not to do things the way everyone else does?  Certainly.  But it is the kind of work that makes one free.