Trans-Pacific Partnership

Don't Trust Trump on Trade

What you need to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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In a weird blast from the 1930s, the presidential campaign trail this year has become a hotbed of anti-free trade sentiment, with candidates on both sides of the aisle promising to renegotiate or even renege on agreements with key U.S. trading partners like Mexico and Canada.

In an August speech, GOP nominee Donald Trump went after his Democratic opponent by saying that Hillary Clinton "has supported the trade deals stripping [Detroit], and this country, of its jobs and wealth. She supported Bill Clinton's [North American Free Trade Agreement], she supported China's entrance into the World Trade Organization, she supported the job-killing trade deal with South Korea, and she supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP]."

Trump hates the TPP. Speaking in June at a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio, he told the crowd that the not-yet-ratified trade deal "is another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country, just a continuing rape of our country."

The former reality TV star claims he isn't "anti-trade." In Detroit he admitted that "trade has big benefits, and I am in favor of trade. But I want great trade deals for our country that create more jobs and higher wages for American workers. Isolation is not an option, only great and well-crafted trade deals are."

There's no doubt that America's trade agreements, including the TPP, could be better. In an ideal world, the U.S. would adopt one and only one such document, which would read: "Americans are allowed to buy whatever they want from wherever they want without any restrictions, quotas, or tariffs, and the U.S. government will not subsidize American exporters in any way, shape, or form."

Compare and contrast that with the TPP, an agreement that includes 5,500 pages of explicit rules and exemptions and reeks of pro-export mercantilism. In a new book, Blueprint for America, the Hoover Institution economist John H. Cochrane helpfully paraphrased the deal: "We will let your politically connected exporters enjoy some rents of our protected markets," he wrote, "and in return you will let some of our politically connected exporters enjoy some rents in your protected markets." That's more trade, but it's hardly free trade.

Making matters worse, the U.S. likes to use trade agreements to forcibly export some of our worst labor, environmental, and intellectual property laws into foreign countries. For instance, the Mercatus Center's Eli Dourado notes, "TPP requires member countries to adopt some of the strictest elements of American intellectual property policy—copyright terms that extend to life of the author plus 70 years, prohibitions on circumventing digital rights management systems, and longer exclusivity for biologics."

But even if these proposals are less than ideal, they at least make trade easier. A new study by experts at the Cato Institute shows that while the TPP has protectionism baked in, 15 of 22 relevant chapters are "net liberalizing."

The sweeping agreement involving 11 countries is meant to keep rent seekers—in this case, companies looking for protection from the need to compete for customers—at bay. As the Mercatus Center's Dan Griswold has written, "TPP would eliminate 18,000 tariffs now imposed on U.S. exports to other TPP countries. Nearly 90 percent of those duties would go to zero upon enactment, and nearly all would be eliminated within 16 years." It also prohibits imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. The Cato analysts conclude that "not everything in a free trade agreement is going to be to the liking of free traders," but on balance they think the deal will make us more economically free.

Flawed though it may be, this and similar agreements are good for the country overall. There is simply no debate over whether it benefits American exporters to have more access to foreign markets—it does. Better yet, more open international markets allow consumers to import better and/or cheaper goods, and producers to import better and/or cheaper raw materials.

That's right: Imports are the real value-add from freer trade. Even Paul Krugman admits as much. In a 1993 paper titled "What Do Undergrads Need to Know About Trade?" the left-leaning economist wrote that "imports, not exports, are the purpose of trade. That is, what a country gains from trade is the ability to import things it wants….The need to export is a burden that a country must bear because its import suppliers are crass enough to demand payment."

Eliminating tariffs and quotas lowers domestic prices while inducing manufacturers to innovate so they can compete on a global stage. A true free trade agenda should be the cornerstone of any economic platform, but this is why it's particularly crucial if the goal is to address the hardship of lower-income Americans.

Unfortunately, Trump, like many before him, fails to see the beauty of low-cost, high-quality imports. According to the candidate, cheap goods destroy American jobs. This is why he wants to impose high tariffs on foreign products, forcing domestic consumers to "buy American" even if prices are substantially more.

But the logic that fewer imports will keep Americans employed is false. If there is a single issue where economists of all political orientations are in agreement, it is that international trade doesn't destroy jobs on net. Freer trade does rearrange jobs from countries where industries are relatively inefficient to countries where they get a better bang for the buyer's buck. But this process makes workers more productive and increases wages as a result. As Krugman put it, "trade policy should be debated in terms of its impact on efficiency, not in terms of phony numbers about jobs created or lost."

Hoover's Cochrane adds that if you follow the money, you can see every dollar Americans spend on imports coming back to the U.S. "When a Chinese company sells a product in America," he says, "we send money to China. The Chinese do not sit on the money. They use a lot of it to quickly turn around and buy buy American" stuff. And even if they don't buy from us, the countries they do buy from often turn around and use their new money to purchase American goods, assets, or government debt.

In any case, protecting exporters is no reason to make life more difficult for consumers. "The United States has some 135,000 workers employed in the apparel industry, but there are more than 45 million Americans who live below the poverty line, stretching every dollar they have," the Dartmouth economist Douglas Irwin recently noted in Foreign Affairs. "Can one really justify increasing the price of clothing for 45 million low-income Americans (and everyone else as well) in an effort to save the jobs of just some of the 135,000 low-wage workers in the apparel industry?"

Trump's irrational hysteria over China and other countries subsidizing their exports reveals his prioritization of U.S. exporters over average Americans. He claims he wants to "level the playing field" against foreign competition using government handouts (for our guys) and high tariffs (for theirs). In fact, countries that import goods made artificially cheap by some other government's subsidies benefit far more than the country practicing the protectionism. To state that more clearly: U.S. consumers get cheap goods at the expense of foreign taxpayers. That's the closest thing to a free lunch in economics as you'll ever find.

Just as there's no reason to make the perfect the enemy of the good when it comes enacting to trade agreements, there's also no need to give in to overblown fears about the dangers of trade.

NEXT: Brickbat: Home-Based Business

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  1. The perfect should be the enemy of the terrible and the TPP is just that. It includes transnational panels to adjudicate disputes and carve outs for certain industries, pharmaceuticals for example. Putting lipstick on this pig doesn’t make it a good free trade agreement.

    1. What Pharma carve outs are you referring to? I know there are carve-outs for Tobacco because Dems think it’s evil. And I know there are lots of IP restrictions on Drugs and Biologics but those seem to make sense to me, Companies in the US are making the research investments and without patent restrictions it completely disincentivizes R&D.

      1. Certain drugs in member nations will receive extended patent protection which will drive the costs up in those nations. I’ll concede that does have some benefits, particularly for R&D, but it is certainly a carveout.

        1. The first three words of the headline were enough.

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  2. To state that more clearly: U.S. consumers get cheap goods at the expense of foreign taxpayers. That’s the closest thing to a free lunch in economics as you’ll ever find.

    And when they lose their jobs because of these cheap goods they get welfare. Free breakfast, lunch and dinner!

    1. Win-win!!!

    2. Average don’t lose jobs because of cheap goods. And if they did, you could always do suggesting safe and effective that’s equivalent to trade restrictions: have people dig ditches in the desert or clean floors with toothbrushes and pay them out of taxes: jobs retained by trade restrictions are just as worthless.

    3. Average don’t lose jobs because of cheap goods. And if they did, you could always do suggesting safe and effective that’s equivalent to trade restrictions: have people dig ditches in the desert or clean floors with toothbrushes and pay them out of taxes: jobs retained by trade restrictions are just as worthless.

    4. Don’t assume that all that is imported is finished goods. Trade can also include raw materials and intermediate goods. Which would only increase profit margins for domestic companies. Not that I have any figures on what percentage of Asian imports are finished good, I would assume it’s high but that’s one thing to consider.

      1. Yes it could. Of course there is very little incentive for governments to subsidize the exportation of raw materials. The money is in subsidizing finished goods.

        Beyond that, whether it is a finished good or a raw material, subsidized good still distort the market.

  3. I have no trust of any agreement written in secret with no oversight and no public review with more provisions than can reasonably be read.

    Just from a procedural standpoint, I can’t support TPP, then when you start to look at who wrote it, and the clauses we do know about, it becomes even more abhorrant in terms of being anti-liberty.

  4. It doesn’t matter whether a corrupt trade agreement is a net benefit to the country; distorting the market, creating regulatory costs, and encouraging future rent seeking are hugely damaging, even if the narrow short term cost benefit analysis seems to work out on average.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      The other thing that needs to be considered is the social costs associated with the economic disruptions created by these corrupt trade deals. DeRugy would have us believe that allowing foreign taxpayers to subsidize our consuming habits is a great thing. That comes at a cost of a economic disruption. Lots of Americans lose their jobs and are not particularly happy about it. DeRugy is so terrified of Trump. Okay, if the cost her getting her cheap shit is the dislocation of American workers and the creation of a no shit populist anti-capitalist movement, maybe that cheap shit she likes so much isn’t so cheap.

  5. To state that more clearly: U.S. consumers get cheap goods at the expense of foreign taxpayers. That’s the closest thing to a free lunch in economics as you’ll ever find.

    It is a free lunch for the consumers but not for the businesses who would be competitive and profitable in a free market. Understand, a market where governments subsidize industry is not a “free market”. DeRugy assumes that the interests of consumers should always hold sway over the interests of businesses. I see no reason why that should be the case. Of course DeRugy being a consumer and in no danger of ever losing her job to subsidized foreign competition thinks that the interests of consumers should always hold sway. That is nice but everything that follows is just a rationalization for DeRugy getting what she wants.

    It is one thing if an American business is legitimately not profitable or competitive against foreign competition. It is quite another thing when it is but can’t compete because the foreign competition is subsidized. Why should those businesses be told too bad so people like DeRugy can get their welfare from foreign taxpayers. Understand that her getting unnaturally cheap goods thanks to foreign taxpayers is just as much welfare as our government handing out checks to unprofitable businesses.

    1. What’s your solution? Tax consumers into paying more for those subsidized goods? Subsidize domestic producers with tax dollars?

      1. The answer is tell foreign countries that they can’t subsidize goods they sell here. I get it, you want your welfare from China. And maybe you should get it. But there is nothing that says you have to get it or that ensuring you get it is the proper goal for economic policy.

        1. The answer is tell foreign countries that they can’t subsidize goods they sell here.

          Or what? Make it a crime to import stuff from those countries? Slap on tariffs to make the stuff more expensive? Tax consumers here to subsidize domestic producers that can’t compete?

        2. John, please point to one country that has thrived, for more than just a couple years, by adopting a Mercantilist trade policy, which is what you are advocating.

          Go ahead, I’ll wait.

          1. John, please point to one country that has thrived, for more than just a couple years, by adopting a Mercantilist trade policy, which is what you are advocating.

            The US for the entire 19th Century. Our entire economy and manufacturing base was built under an unbelievably protectionist regime. The US did not embrace free trade until after the First World War.

            Moreover, I am not arguing for a merchatilist regime. I am arguing for a trade regime that only trades with countries on free terms, meaning no subsidies or currency manipulation. There are degrees of these things. Just because we don’t embrace full on 19th Century style protectionism, doesn’t mean that we do nothing to ensure our industries compete on a level playing field either.

            You are just begging the question by creating a false dilemma of it being all or nothing. It is not. You just pretend it is because you don’t want to have to defend why your interests as a consumer are the only legitimate interests to be considered here.

            1. You just pretend it is because you don’t want to have to defend why your interests as a consumer are the only legitimate interests to be considered here.

              Consumer interests indeed are the only ones that matter. The purpose of production is consumption, not jobs.

            2. I get what you are saying but anything but nearly absolute free trade is nearly impossible to police. I am for absolute free trade and let American consumers decide. If China wants to subsidize a bunch of their crap products and send them to the USA to sell- fine. Americans do not have to buy the products and if the Chinese are smart, they will try and figure out why the products are not selling.

              There are absolutely markets for more expensive quality products and there are markets for low quality cheaper products.

              American can market many products as medium price but better quality. In other words, you don’t have to replace the products so soon, so its worth the slightly higher price.

              1. Then you endorse allowing the distortion of markets where such distortion comes from foreign subsidies. That is your right of course. But you should not claim to really then value free trade or free markets, because you really don’t. You value getting cheap shit more than anything.

                1. Then you endorse allowing the distortion of markets where such distortion comes from foreign subsidies

                  Endorse? Not quite. More like it’s not our business if some foreign entity wants to subsidize stuff.

                  But you should not claim to really then value free trade or free markets, because you really don’t.

                  Because we don’t endorse taxing or otherwise penalizing consumers who would take advantage of foreign subsidies, we don’t support free trade? That’s a bit of a stretch.

        3. Of course DeRugy being a consumer and in no danger of ever losing her job to subsidized foreign competition thinks that the interests of consumers should always hold sway.

          Just you wait for those cheap Chinese lawyers. You’ll be changing your tune.

          Maybe you should just go and sabotage all of the modern farming equipment. Think of all the farm jobs that will be saved!

          1. Or maybe you should understand that a subsidized market is not a free market. Like everyone on this thread you operate under the assumption that artificially cheap goods have no negative effects on an economy. And that is just nonsense. And worse, you understand the insidious effects of subsidies in other contexts but don’t here because you want your cheap shit. That is all that is going on here is you and others rationalizing your welfare.

            1. Subsidies do not per se have negative effects on economies. Consumers ultimately decide whether subsidized goods are purchased. The subsidized goods can be super cheap and if nobody buys them they are worthless.

    2. If foreign governments want to help me pay for my goods and services, I’m not going to stop them. If we want US businesses to be more competitive, we can start by cutting regulation and taxes. As it stands, the government would rather tax everyone out of the country until at some point they’ll be getting a very large percentage of zero.

      1. If foreign governments want to help me pay for my goods and services, I’m not going to stop them

        I am sure you wouldn’t. That is because you directly benefit from it. But what if your business is no longer competitive thanks to that. Would you not want to stop them then?

        The question is why is consumer you get their way but business owner you doesn’t? I don’t see any reason why telling consumer you, too bad you can’t have your welfare from China is necessarily better or worse than telling business owner you too bad even though you have a business that would be profitable in a free market you can’t have it because we are getting welfare from China.

        You and DeRugy just assume that consumer you should always win out. You do that because you are consumers and that is your self interests. That is fine but I don’t see how your self interests are any more compelling than the self interests of the people losing their jobs over this.

        Again, we are talking about your freedom to accept welfare from foreign governments versus a business owners’ ability to have a level playing field to compete. Neither interest is necessarily compelling over the other. Reason assumes it is always the consumer because they are all consumers.

        1. My solution would be to eliminate the corporate income tax and cut regulations where it makes sense. Not adding more taxes on consumers. We can be competitive without worrying about what other countries are doing. I would only be concerned if we were talking about some industry impacting national security.

          1. That is all a good thing. But that doesn’t address the issue of when other countries legitimately subsidize their industries and sell at an artificially low cost. You and DeRugy may personally benefit from that but our economy as a whole does not. I guarantee you DeRugy understands the adverse affects of artificially manipulating your currency to make your goods cheap for export at the expense of your domestic consumers. What she refuses to understand is the flip side of that. Would she want the US to artificially manipulate its currency upwards to make everything cheap? I guarantee should would not.

            Fiat currencies made international trade much more problematic. The normal checks and balances that prevented things like endless trade deficits and endless printing of money to pay for it are not there anymore. Go back to a gold standard world wide and come talk to me about pure open markets again. You can’t have an open market without a standard currency.

      2. Further, government subsidies are bad for a lot of reasons beyond screwing the taxpayers. They distort the market. Making one sort of good artificially cheap distorts the market and has all of the negative effects of any other distortion. We should consume whatever we can afford and whatever is efficient. Making one set of products cheaper than they actually cost causes the market to over consume those products. You see that in other contexts, why do you stop seeing that here. If the Chinese went crazy and suddenly started paying for every American to go to college, do you think that would be a good thing? maybe but perhaps the resulting over consumption of college education would have some very negative effects as well. We are always better off with things being priced according to their actual cost. Subsidies never lead anywhere good. Libertarians seem to understand that fact unless they are the ones benefitting from the subsidy it seems.

        1. Government subsidies are a bad thing for the countries that have them. That’s on them to fix.

          1. What JB said.

          2. They are a bad thing for the countries that get the subsidies too. Take for example the insidious effects of international food aid. Here the international community goes and gives away food to poor countries. How could that be a bad thing? The bad thing is that no one grows any food in these countries anymore because there is no market for it. Why buy food when you can get it for free from the UN? Food aid programs have a terrible record. They have never done anything except create more starvation and opportunities for graft. That is because the adverse effects of welfare and getting shit for free or reduced costs are a lot more than just screwing the people who have to pay for it.

            1. Good point. This happened in Haiti.

              1. And a lot of other places.

            2. Apples to Oranges John.

              1. No it is not. It is the same principle. If you give something away, the market for making it goes away. Subsidized goods distort the market and have all kinds of bad effects on an economy.

    3. I think you’re conflating a few things here.

      Understand, a market where governments subsidize industry is not a “free market”.

      Not in the countries where that industry exists. But part of having a free market here is the advantage of being able to buy those goods produced at the expense of others.

      It is one thing if an American business is legitimately not profitable or competitive against foreign competition. It is quite another thing when it is but can’t compete because the foreign competition is subsidized.

      If you assume that businesses subsidized elsewhere accrue no disadvantages in the country of origin, that’s a strong argument for everyone subsidizing every business. But the assumption is a poor one- advantaging one business in that manner disadvantages other businesses, which creates opportunities for other countries.

      1. Not in the countries where that industry exists. But part of having a free market here is the advantage of being able to buy those goods produced at the expense of others.

        You assume that there are no second order effects of having someone else pay for something. When the price of something doesn’t truly represent the cost, then the amount of that thing consumed goes off kilter as well. We live in a world where consumer goods are largely subsidize by foreign taxpayers and consumers. That really hasn’t worked out well for us. When goods are artificially cheap, people don’t save as much as they would have and consume more. Since there is no money in manufacturing anything, we over invest in services and other things. The downside of subsidizing manufactured goods to export overseas is that your economy overinvests in manufacturing and export goods at the expense of other industries and your domestic market. There is a flip side of that. The down side of accepting artificially cheap goods is your economy under invests in manufacturing and exports and over invests in services and consumption. Both economies end of out of whack.

        Subsidies are a bad thing for markets and economies. They do more harm than just fuck the taxpayer.

        1. If a government subsidizes an industry’s start up costs & it becomes profitable once it grows to scale, that’s a good investment. Any government that is propping up businesses that can not compete with foreign competitors is throwing away money & will eventually be punished by the market.

          China put a lot of money into its electronics production sector. They are now receiving huge benefits for that initial subsidy. The problem is that figuring out likely winners is a lot easier when a country is just starting to industrialize than it is for a developed nation. Of course, the nature of central government bureaucrats is to try & keep the reins. As Japan & many European nations discovered a little too late, once you get past that early phase, you need to let free markets take over or you wind up with debt that hasn’t done anything to promote growth.

          I’m bringing this up, simply because you are arguing from the simplistic view that all subsidies are always bad for everyone involved. A smart trade agreement should allow short term subsidies in underdeveloped nations.

  6. Well you also have to take the candidates tax plans into consideration when discussing economic impacts. Will Trumps plans on trade do more damage than Clinton’s plans on taxes? Also, can you believe anything either candidate says in which case all of this could just be navel gazing.

    1. There is more to life than trade. DeRugy doesn’t see it that way because she sees economic policy as a rationalization for her self interests. If the bargain is TPP but also huge tax and regulatory increases as well as an outright government war on the energy sector or no TPP but an end to the global warming nonsense, lower taxes and lower regulation, I will pass on TPP thank you.

  7. Trump can’t be trusted on trade? Well duh.
    But neither can Hillary. This is an attempt to draw a distinction without a difference.
    Neither of them can be trusted. The (minimal) advantage Trump has is that it’s okay to say you don’t trust him, it’s okay to hate him, it’s okay for him to be the bad guy. It’s about time we had a president the press felt that way about.
    Things seem to go better when we get the president ‘we’ hate. Not well, but better.

  8. Does the Prez arbitrarily set tariffs? If not, what’s the worry with Trump. With Hildog the Congress will go along or risk being sexist.

  9. Can’t trust him on trade?

    Whuh?

    Of course we can trust him on trade. He will be horrible on trade, exactly as he has claimed he would be.

    Exactly how he will be horrible is, of course, open to debate. He’s kinda all over the place in a vaguely protectionist sort of an area. But knowing that he won’t have any cooperation from congress and perhaps not even from the executive, you can take his ramblings with a grain of salt.

    1. Here is one thing you can trust him on, he won’t go out and negotiate any crony capitalist sovereignty killing trade deals like the TPP. That is a pretty big upside.

    2. If the price of access to cheap goods is internationally imposed regulation and restrictions on freedom in the name of “trade harmonization”, do you still want the cheap goods? I don’t. And understand that is one of the prices of the cheap shit.

  10. I’m with John on this one. Subsidies distort every market that they affect. Thus, they distort the markets they are exported to. This shouldn’t be the least bit controversial.

    The interesting question is how those distortions affect various markets. I don’t think there’s any question, again, that subsidizing some producers effectively penalizes non-subsidized competing producers. This is a truism when both producers are in the same country. I don’t see why its any different when the subsidized producers are in another country.

    I don’t see how anyone can oppose the US subsidizing US producers, and not oppose other countries subsidizing their producers. Both impose the same penalty on non-subsidized producers.

    So, if subsidies are good because they benefit consumers, what’s the objection to subsidizing US producers? Its your taxes being used for the subsidy? That’s not really a principled objection to subsidies.

  11. RE: Don’t Trust Trump on Trade
    What you need to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I trust Trump the Grump (and Heil Hitlary).
    I trust them both to trade our tax dollars in exchange for rampant cronyism, corruption and further economic deterioration of beloved slave state.
    You must have faith people!

  12. When are you self proclaimed Libertarians going to talk about US sovereignty that is being stripped by these
    UNCONSTITUTIONAL Trade Deals????

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  15. I do trust Trump on trade: I trust that he lacks the competence or political skill to either do much damage or advance trade very much.

    I also trust Clinton on trade: I trust that she is in bed with a bunch of billionaire cronies, who are going to make sure that any trade-related legislation she pushes through will make her cronies richer and the rest of us worse off.

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  18. I effectively agree with almost everything John said. You guys are also forgetting a very important fact… You’re treating this all like it’s just some free exchange of goods with no implications beyond maybe where a few jobs on located geographically and how cheap your new t-shirt you buy is… A lot of other countries DON’T see it like this. Especially China.

    To China this is a game of global hegemony. They’re playing for all the marbles. They’re subsidizing things and manipulating their currency to undercut the west’s industrial capacity for geopolitical goals, not just a quick buck. They want to have us by the balls… Which they pretty much do. Thank God for the existence of nuclear weapons, because that’s the only thing that will prevent WWIII with China trying to make the big land grab this time around. But they still want the global “sway” that such a power can use.

    As mentioned if we still had a real hard currency this nonsense could not have got so far along as it has. If a deal wouldn’t work in a situation with a hard currency, it is NOT a situation you want to be in. Just because you can fake and cheat your way along through the printing press does not mean it’s a good idea.

    Our national debt would never have got this out of control without fiat currency, and neither would our trade deficit.

    1. People also LOVE to ignore this piece of the trade deficit equation… “It’s not bad to send your money over seas! They HAVE to spend it back eventually! They can buy American goods (a good thing), they can buy American debt (debatable), or they can buy American assets! (horrible).”

      Them buying stuff we make is good. It supports jobs, blah blah blah. Owning debt is in the middle. You don’t REALLY want to be beholden to foreigners for a lot of reasons, and you’re also making interest payments which must come out of US government coffers. In other words sucking more money out of our country, which they will then reinvest. But with rates so low they’re basically negative returns that’s not a huge deal NOW, but with higher interest rates it would be.

      However owning other higher return assets… That is the death of a nation right there. If you run a trade deficit indefinitely, and they keep buying your assets year after year, then fewer assets are owned by actual American nationals over time… And eventually (in theory) all ownership would be foreign, and all Americans would essentially be working as debt-slaves to their foreign masters.

    2. I don’t see it likely ever getting to THAT degree, because shit would hit the fan before then. However what if foreigners owned 25% of the commercial real estate in the US? What if they owned 38.4% of the stock market? That would be a huge drain on the economy. That is all enabled by running a massive trade deficit and giving them the ability to buy our assets with our own money. Being a debtor on that kind of scale is NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER a good idea. EVER. Period. Anyone who can’t grasp that is a fool.

      That long term prospect, combined with the geopolitical implications of completely ignoring there being ANY downside to a huge trade deficit, makes the whole 100% free trade (even with nations manipulating it to their advantage) a dumb shit idea in the real world. If everybody follows the same set of rules, everything can work great… But if you have people cheating you have to acknowledge that and plan accordingly. Sometimes that might require you to “cheat” in response unfortunately, but that’s possibly a better alternative than being hustled.

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