Republican Party

Under Trump, Republicans Become the Party of 'You Didn't Build That'

Trump's trade policies are supported by a majority of GOP voters, who used to oppose this sort of corporate welfare under Obama. Partisanship rules all.


Chris Fitzgerald / Candidate Photos/Newscom

For at least the past decade, Republicans have positioned themselves as the defenders of what passes for laissez faire economics in modern Washington. During the Obama administration, the GOP attacked new environmental regulations as hidden taxes on American businesses, decried the stimulus as cronyism on a grand scale, and lashed out at a president for claiming that Americans "didn't build" successful enterprises without government assistance.

Now, with President Donald Trump walking the nation to the precipice of a trade war—one that sees America pitted against not only a longtime Republican boogeyman, China, but also such major trading partners as Canada, Europe, and Mexico—congressional Republicans have a choice to make. They can embrace free markets, or they can can embrace Donald Trump.

A trade war will cause significant pain for American businesses and consumers. It will create new hidden taxes in the form of the costs tariffs impose on consumers. It will be cronyism on a grand scale, with Trump and his top advisers deciding which industries get protected and which get crushed. And it is premised on the same idea that angered so many tea partiers when Obama expressed it. Trump hasn't said "you didn't build that," but his actions suggest that America can't build much of anything—steel, cars, the list goes on and on—unless the government steps in with some protectionism.

What will Republicans in Congress do? For most of them, probably nothing.

But some of them are going to try to pull the party in a different direction. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who on Saturday described news coverage of Trump's trade policies as "like something I could have read in a local Caracas newspaper last week," says he is prepared to work "with like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies."

It is, for now, unclear what that plan might look like. Still, the statement signals at least a willingness to do something. Previously, many Republicans responded to Trump's tariff threats merely by expressing their opposition and hoping the issue would simply go away. "I'm not a fan of tariffs, and I am nervous about what appears to be a growing trend in the administration to levy tariffs," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told the Louisville Courier-Journal in April, as if he wasn't in a position to do anything about the administration's bellicose trade policies.

It's true that Congress has limited its control over trade policy. In 2015, for example, it enacted a Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) allowing the White House to negotiate trade deals with other countries without congressional interference. Congress doesn't enter the picture until it hold a a straight up-or-down vote on the final product, essentially promising that it won't try to alter whatever deal the president makes.

This was a deliberate abdication of the power granted by Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly allows Congress "to lay and collect taxes, duties," and the like. In a previous era, this abdication felt like a pro-trade move: Congress has, traditionally, been more open to protectionist policies (just think about how defensive legislators get about anything in their home districts), while the White House has been more likely to support free trade, since the president tends to get credit (and blame) for the economy as a whole.

"They never anticipated having a protectionist president," says Dan Ikenson, director of trade policy studies at the Cato Institute. Like so much else in the Trump presidency, the trade war is partly a consequence of a decades-long slide of power from the legislature to the executive.

Reversing that trend won't be easy, but if Congress wants to rein in Trump, there is an important deadline looming at the end of this month.

Congress has until June 30 to reauthorize the TPA it passed in 2015. This is supposed to remain in place for six years, but there's a catch: After three years, Congress can exercise an option to revoke that authority. While revoking Trump's TPA would not directly block tariffs—the steel and aluminum tariffs have been issued under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which gives the president more or less carte blanche to impose tariffs on national security grounds—it would be at least a symbolic blow, and an indication that congressional Republicans reject Trump's trade policies.

A more dramatic option would be to pass the Global Trade Accountability Act, a bill proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). This would require congressional approval before tariffs could go into effect. The bill would also give Congress the ultimate authority over whether to withdraw from other trade agreements, including NAFTA and the WTO. Again, this would not apply to Trump's Section 232 tariffs, but it could limit the damage the president can cause and it may put America's top trading partners slightly at ease.

But don't get your hopes up. Corker, who is not running for re-election, appears to be in the minority when it comes to standing up for free trade. And he seems to know it—hence his tweet's call for Democrats, who are also in the minority, to come to his aid.

"There is no Republican Party. There's a Trump Party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere," former Speaker of the House John Boehner said last week.

Well, maybe; it depends on which Republican Party you mean. There have been periods when the GOP was a more protectionist party, and even seemingly pro-trade presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush erected trade barriers at times. But the Republicans discovered a strong free market message during their years as Obama's opposition, and that message is now all but lost.

A Harvard-Harris poll released last week found that 71 percent of self-described Republicans approve of Trump's decision to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, while 60 percent believe those tariffs "will mostly protect American jobs":

Source: Harvard-Harris poll, May 2018

The part about protecting jobs is simply not true. Even if the tariffs do protect some steel-making jobs, they will destroy more jobs in downstream industries, according to projections from both pro-trade and anti-trade groups.

But the first part is what congressional Republicans are hearing loud and clear. On Sunday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy took to CNN to defend Trump's tariff plans.

"We are standing up for the process of where we're moving forward that we have fair trade," McCarthy said.

If a majority of Republican voters are going to follow the president into a trade war of choice, then Republicans in Congress appear ready to dutifully stand aside. This year has already seen the GOP abandon its rhetorical role as the party of fiscal responsibility by passing a budget-busting omnibus bill that required the repeal of spending limits once championed by the party's leaders.

Now, in the service of a president pursuing anti-market trade policies, Republicans are casting aside another principle that they recently treated as a clarion call. Just as Republicans seem to be stawart fiscal conservatives only when they are in the opposition, it looks like they might be ardent free traders only when they aren't led by a president who refuses to see the benefits of trade. Republican opposition to big government doesn't seem to have been about anything more than partisanship.

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  1. Perhaps, just perhaps, Congress should get off of their asses and actually do their job instead of passing laws saying “Well, we’ll let the President figure it out”.

    But it is nice to see Republicans seemed to have no ACTUAL beefs with Obama doing this stuff.

    1. The best thing that Congress could do, if it actually respected separation of powers, would be to rescind the portions of the Trade Act of 1974 which enables the President powers to levy tariffs as part of national security. There’s no need for this. If we were in an actual declared war where we needed tariffs to protect our national interests then Congress should get to work to pass tariffs.

      It’s akin to giving the executive the power to implement tax policy for national defense.

      And this is only one small example where Congress has needlessly ceded its power (actually the power of the people) to the President.

      1. I agree. But if you want to go by a strict reading of the Constitution, trade agreements should not be enacted by treaty. If the President wants to make a trade deal, good for him. But it shouldn’t have any effect on US law. Congress should then have to pass a bill through both Houses of Congress doing whatever the agreement pledges the US to do. We should not be setting tax law by advice and consent of the Senate either.

        1. It’s amazing to me that as power hungry as Congress seems to be at times, they rarely see that the Executive Branch has been ceded much of their actual power.

          1. They like power but they dislike the responsibility that comes with it more. Letting the President do everything allows them to avoid taking responsibility for anything.

            1. Only one person to blame, hero or scapegoat depending on the issue at hand. ” I fought the president on X”, ” I fought with a the president on Y”, now vote for me bitches

            2. ^^^ this, right here…nailed it

      2. I didn’t build socialism or Marxism… I can claim NO credit for it! NOT originally “Made in America”, and these ideas are NOT going to “Make America Great Again!”

        Now isn’t the idea of “POTUS will decide which industries are to be favored and protected from competition, and which will not” somehow related to Marxism, to the “Central State” deciding on WHAT is good for all? Collectivism collectivizes YOU!!!

        We need VERY STEEP tariffs against collectivism!!!!

        But no, I did NOT build that!!!!

        1. We should cleanse America of socialism and Marxism.

  2. if Corker is your backup…

  3. I built it. It was me. I built it all. I kept saying this during the Obama administration too. He was right, they didn’t build it. I did. And I’m sick of being overlooked just because I’m Black.

    1. Go back to the plantation BUCS. Don’t make them send T’Neshi Coats out to track you down.

      1. Do you know how busy I keep myself to build everything in the US? The answer? Reasonably busy.

        And I still find time to post here. I just want some damn credit. This is why I voted for Kucinich (autocorrect tried to turn this into Zucchini, which is deeply appropriate on some level) in 2016.

        1. Just keep your nose to the grindstone and let Progressives do your thinking.

        2. I would vote for zucchini but only it were fried or baked into bread. Now that I think about it, I guess I would vote for Kucinich in the same circumstances.

    2. Obama said they didn’t build the “roads and bridges” used to deliver product.

      This canard about not building a company is a wingnut lie that needs to die. But wingnuts don’t let their lies die.

      1. Yeah, I know. I built those roads and bridges. I was there. I’m a modern day John Henry, except not a little bitch who dies after one hard day of competing with a machine.

      2. It was still a stupid ‘facia di culo’ statement.

      3. And morons like you think the government built it instead of the taxpayers.

      4. Not like you guys, right PB? Not like you all don’t constantly lie about every goddamn thing? You’re a sociopath drawn to a party of sociopaths. Everything based on constantly revised history and situational ethics.

  4. They can embrace free markets, or they can can embrace Donald Trump.

    Baa baa, bapa bapa baa baa, bapa bapa baa baa.

    1. Burlesque shows are making a comeback, and they are just the most boring thing that ever exists.

      God I hate them.

      1. Burlesque is just a fancy word for fat strippers who keep some of their clothes on out of pity for the audience.

        1. Isn’t that your thing, John?

      2. Burlesque shows are making a comeback

        in 2003…

        1. Well, then I wish my friends would stop taking me to old revivals too. I just want to listen to Judas Priest in peace.

    2. Is it a free market if one nation has a higher tax rate on products coming into their country and a much lower tax rate on the products shipped to the other country? No! It is not free market when one nation has a tilted playing field in his favor while the other nation has a the uphill battle. Level the playing field so each nation has an equal chance to succeed.

  5. http://www.realclearpolitics.c…..ssion=true

    Consider the latest jobs report.

    On Friday our country cheered yet another stellar jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And unlike the sluggish expansion of the Obama years, the lion’s share of this labor market strength benefits middle-income and previously ignored workers. For example, non-managerial wages accelerated at a 12-month rate of 2.7 percent, the highest in a decade. The jobless rate for non-college graduates fell to the lowest level since 2001. Even for those who did not complete high school, good news abounds, as the jobless rate for that working-class, underdog population has now been below 6 percent for the each of the past five months. . . .

    It is one report. But, isn’t it possible that free trade and open borders benefit certain classes of people at the expense of others? Maybe the choice isn’t “free trade or disaster”? Maybe international trade and immigration are just ordinary policy questions and struggles between competing interests rather than some great moral issue where the other side has no legitimate point.

    1. It was a very ordinary jobs report like all of them have been the last 5-6 years.

      1. For example, non-managerial wages accelerated at a 12-month rate of 2.7 percent, the highest in a decade. The jobless rate for non-college graduates fell to the lowest level since 2001. Even for those who did not complete high school, good news abounds, as the jobless rate for that working-class, underdog population has now been below 6 percent for the each of the past five months.

        No it wasn’t. It was better for ordinary people than any in a long time and certainly any under Obama. Obama didn’t give a fuck about anyone except himself and his cronies at Goldman Sachs. So it didn’t bother him that wages stagnated and employment as well because the stock market was going up. And that was what the people who put him in office put him there to do. That and make sure no one was prosecuted for the 2008 banking collapse.

        1. You’re full of shit as usual.

          1. No. You are trolling and trying to ensure the thread gets screwed up to avoid criticism of Obama.

        2. It was better for ordinary people

          so college graduates aren’t “ordinary people”?

          1. Far from a majority.

  6. There was a time — decades ago — when the Republican Party favored limited government, tolerance, foreign humility, education, competence, free markets, science, and progress.

    Today’s Republican Party promotes few of those things, and unreliably. It has thrown in with southerners and evangelicals to attempt to lash together a viable electoral coalition, with predictable results, especially with respect to embrace of nanny-state government power.

    1. Nothing says tolerance like hating entire groups of people and areas of the country. You are just dumber than pig shit. You really are. You are just low IQ white trash.

      1. Was using the phrase “white trash” while insulting his lack of tolerance done on purpose?

        1. Yes it was. Thanks for picking up on that. It is hard to get jokes on here sometimes.

          1. everything was going great until the irony

            1. And calling him “white trash” is not saying anything about anyone else. He is trash. That is a comment on his character not a generalization about others.

              1. the term has been marginalized by sitcoms nobody should claim insult

          2. As someone who comes from white trash, I’m just so used to everyone saying it as an insult. So I was genuinely curious as most people wouldn’t even think that it’s a slur.

            1. I consider it a slur. But in fairness, it is one that he richly deserves.

        2. The “N” word referring African-amaricans is insulting and should be criminal but the term “white trash” is not because it is not based upon their complexion but upon their actions.

          1. Saying or writing ”nigger” should be a crime?
            Fuck you.

          2. So Curly, not a fan of that first amendment, are you?

      2. Does “act humble so it’s more of a surprise when you hit them with the big stick” count as foreign humility? Otherwise, I’m having trouble thinking of a time when the GOP was all of those things together (not that all of those things are always desirable throughout the history of the GOP).

  7. “We are standing up for the process of where we’re moving forward that we have fair trade,” McCarthy said.

    Because even if our moral and intellectual superiors like Kevin McCarthy aren’t in a much better position than us schlubs to determine what’s a fair deal for us, surely Our Lord and Savior Donald J. Trump’s omniscience will save us from ourselves.

  8. How is it even constitutional for Congress to cede its power to the executive without a constitutional amendment?

    1. Which Congressional power?

      1. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.” That one. It’s a power granted to Congress, not to the executive. I don’t see how they can hand it over to the president without a constitutional amendment.

        1. They didn’t. They didn’t reject their own power, nor did they grant it to the president. All they did was bind themselves to not getting into the details of negotiating such bills on their own agenda.

          1. This is the sort of arrangement a legislature adopts to break possible deadlocks wherein parochial interests keep overall reforms from advancing. Remember the military base closing commission? The very justified fear was that individual members of Congress would work very hard to prevent bases from being closed in their district or state, even though it was universally recognized that their was an excess of bases operating. So they delegated the decision making to a commission, and agreed to enact into law whatever combination of base closings the commission recommended. In the end they chickened out & didn’t even do exactly that, but the did approximately what was planned & did succeed in closing a large # of bases, albeit less than the commission recommended.

            That’s what Trade Promotion was about, & mostly has worked that way, as the article explained. I’m not sure repeal or expir’n of authority is a good thing regardless of who’s prez. Trump, let alone his successor, may turn out to still negotiate better than Congress.

    2. They didn’t. The article even explains that. They still vote on the final deal. They just adopted rules not to negotiate the details themselves. Each house of Congress has the power to make its own rules on its procedures that don’t contradict the Constitution. This one doesn’t contradict the Constitution.

      1. “the steel and aluminum tariffs have been issued under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which gives the president more or less carte blanche to impose tariffs on national security ground”

        I’m talking about this part. These tariffs are not going to be voted on by Congress unless they decide to do so. They went into effect without congressional approval. This is delegating the power to unilaterally impose duties (tariffs) to the president.

        1. The Wikipedia entry says it’s not about that, but about prez authority to negotiate reductions of up to 80% in the tariffs that exist in statute by default. Apparently they amended tariffs to be effective only conditionally, i.e. conditional on the lack of an agreement negotiated by the prez.

          The underlying statutory duties & tariffs are still in effect. If prez authority to suspend portions of these tariffs is repealed, the result is a massive increase in US trade barriers, & GATT particip’n by the USA becomes inconsequential. Congress hasn’t had the guts to lower barriers unilaterally.

        2. Think of presidential authority in this regard as operating like FDA’s authority to license products which would otherwise be forbidden in interstate commerce. Consider things like Most Favored Nation status to be licenses negotiated by POTUS allowing a lower statutory tariff or duty to apply. Congress is allowed to pass laws saying, X applies generally, but Y applies instead in the case of a license granted by the executive under such-&-such conditions.

          1. This all begs the question of at what point, whether tariffs or FDA, is Congress abdicating its lawmaking responsibility to the president.

            1. Would you really prefer Congress to enact every license required by FDA, EPA, etc.? How about all the licensing states delegate to state or local authorities? You know, statutes listing everyone who’s permitted to do anything requiring a permit? All to be debated by elected representatives? It’s bad enough just needing permission, but making each permission contingent on a political vote would be horrendous.

  9. Now, with President Donald Trump walking the nation to the precipice of a trade war….

    Eric is so cute thinking that the USA has NOT been getting the trade shaft in the ass all these years. The USA is the best trade market in the World.

    The USA has managed trade not free trade. Why not try a little trade war to get outgoing US trade on a better footing? It might not work and can just go back to managed trade.

    1. Libertarians For Tariffs And Protectionism is among my favorite groups of “libertarians,” right up there with Libertarians For Government Micromanagement Of Women’s Clinics, Libertarians For The Drug War, Libertarians For Military Belligerence, and Libertarians For Bigoted, Authoritarian Immigration Policies.

      1. I’m partial to “Assholes as Trolls”, myself. Asshole.

      2. Rev., this site long ago ceased to be much of a libertarian hangout. The writers pretend. The commenters don’t even bother. They’re mostly fauxbertarians and run-of-the-mill Contards.
        LoveC, buybuyDavis, John. They all have Trump’s cock in their mouths.

        1. That’s where it belongs, but they seem conflicted about it . . . can’t decide whether they love it or hate it (or hate themselves for loving it)

        2. Well reasoned retort!

    2. Why the fuck should I care about the USA? And whether or not it has been getting the shaft? And for that matter, how does a country get the shaft anyway? A country is nothing but a made up fucking social construct. It is not a person, it doesn’t have an ass you fucking collectivist twat. And why should I care about a trade deficit anyway? It is a made up metric. Countries don’t trade with each other.
      I for one, wish China would send me stuff for free. Until then, I am quite happy getting it for next to free at Wallyworld. I fail to see how a trade war benefits me, or is anything other than another bureaucratic fuckhead trying to “help” me. “Me” of course being the abract, literary “me”, not me personally. In collectivist eyes there are no individuals, only the USA.

    3. LoveC, do you ever take Trump’s cock out of your mouth?

  10. I say let’s wait and see. I guess libertarians don’t like negotiating strategies. The fallacy is that we haven’t been on our own all along. Washington was just making deals for special interest and not American workers.

    1. -“I guess libertarians don’t like negotiating strategies.”

      Did I ask anyone to negotiate on my behalf? No? Then fuck off. If the prez wants to renegotiate his own trade deals with China then he is more than welcome to. But what gives him the moral right to insert himself into my business dealings?

  11. It is time for everything that Trump has done to the US and to the world to be reversed. That will start as soon as the newly elected members of congress take office in Jan. 2019. Then Trump will be impeached all the bills that he has signed will start being undone. It cannot happen to soon.

    1. “…Then Trump will be impeached all the bills that he has signed will start being undone….”

      Impeached for what?

      1. For not recognizing that it was Her Turn, duh.

      2. For being intellectually unable to do the job?

        1. I don’t think that’s an impeachable offense. It may be a requirement, in fact.

  12. Under Trump, Republicans Become the Party of ‘You Didn’t Build That’

    This is just lazy thinking and writing. You could argue they have become the party of ‘You can’t build that.’ Now give me another exaggerated estimate of the job losses. That’s always entertaining and really helps your cause.

    1. Since a hundred years of economic evidence doesn’t seem to compel you, I will make the moral argument:

      What right does the government have to negotiate on my behalf?

      1. As much right as it has to lay and collect taxes from you! How is it our government infrastructure is suppose to support foreign trade yet we “aren’t suppose” to tax them but instead just tax domestic MORE to make up for the loss???

        As Trump put it so well – That’s not “Free Trade” that’s “Stupid Trade”

      2. … that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…

        What right does government have to keep me from shooting you and taking your stuff? In a state of nature, it would be hunky dory. Your right to property is inalienable, but it is not secured. In nature, you have to secure it. In society, the social order secures it with laws and people to enforce them. Once you’ve made it that far, it’s all a question of how and how much. As a libertarian of one strain, I think how much should be quite small. But to the extent that government secures our rights collectively better than we could individually, it’s an option worth investigating. This doesn’t mean you turn in your gun, but you do stop shooting once the police arrive unless they ask your assistance. I’m wary of suggesting that securing property rights through trade negotiations is a good idea, but I can see the case for trying to fit it into the framework.

  13. ‘ Trump hasn’t said “you didn’t build that,” ‘

    But Leftists Lie, so we’ll pretend he did in our headlines.

    What a bad joke Reason has become.

  14. “congressional Republicans have a choice to make. They can embrace free markets, or they can can embrace Donald Trump.”

    Has China offered free and unfettered access to their market? No?

    So I guess congressional Republicans *can’t* choose free markets, because they aren’t an option being offered by our trading partners.

    Is Reason ready to choose free markets?

    Ready to end corporate limited liability?
    Ready to end government intellectual monopoly rent seeking?
    Ready to account for the myriads violations of the Lockean Proviso?

    No? Funny. It’s seems like Reason only choose free markets when corporate interests profit.

    As long as “free markets” are not an option with our trading partners, and it’s a matter of making a deal with foreign nations – a political decision with varying impact on Americans.

    Who should that deal be crafted to benefit, this deal made by a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Corporate interests and foreigners, or the people?

    Reason says the former. Trump says the latter.
    I vote America First.

    1. As is your right. The backward, bigoted, and authoritarian have rights, too!

    2. The problem is your leap from “other countries not having open markets” to this being a political decision for the US.

      Thats quite a leap and economically illiterate. That other countries tax and penalize their citizens is no reason for us to do so. Plus, if you think these trade agreements are negotiated in the interest of “the people” rather than the armies of lobbyists swarming capital hill you are comically naive. Our systems of tarriffs is nothing more than a historical roadmap to what lobbying groups wielded power. Big corporations LOVE managed trade.

      If you are for “the people” then you should be for allowing people to trade as they please.

      1. “That other countries tax and penalize their citizens is no reason for us to do so.”

        yeah, yeah, “taxation is theft”, “borders are evil”, “do the anarchist rag!”

        I wonder, should people be able to “trade as they please” with foreign slaveowners, such as the newly declared Dictator for Life of China? Is that what free markets are, outsourcing your initiation of force abroad?

  15. What’s happened to Reason? Why is there no discussion in this article of the unfair trade practices opposed by President Trump. By reading the article one would assume that the President is simply trying to give US businesses a boost, without regard to whether or not our trading partners are being unfair to those US businesses.

    Shame on those who will not actually address the issues. We would all be enlightened by an actual delineation of the one-sided trade policies of our trading partners.

    1. Doesn’t fit The Narrative.

  16. While I am 100% opposed to these stupid fucking tarriffs and think they will do tremendous harm…jeezus Reason your headline blows. The basis for these is NOTHING comparable to the “you didn’t build that” comment, which sought to discredit free markets almost in their entirety and plant the idea that we are dependent on the government. So, call ’em stupid, call it economic illiteracy, but your headline is moronic.

    Lets talk polls. If you think the poll in the article shows a mindset shift on free trade between Rs and Ds, rather than just mindless party loyalty, then you are dreaming.

  17. “You didn’t build that” was precisely an assertion that individuals have little merit in Obama’s world (or Marx, but I repeat myself). It isn’t a slogan to advocate some policy but as a loud profession of collectivist ideology whereas Trump is just being a bad capitalist.

    One is bad policy and the other is an outright denouncement of all western values. To conflate the two is asinine.

  18. Trump has done a wonderful job of exposing the Republicans for the hypocrites that they truly are.

    1. And bringing out the total hysteria of the left.

  19. Reason needs to change their name to Irrational.

    We’re already in a trade war. Brought to us by the dims and swamp RINOS.

    Trump is balancing our trade.

    If it has to come to us imposing tariffs and the other countries retaliating, then so be it.

    They’ll find out that they need us a lot more than we need them.

  20. Trade is not FREE unless it is FAIR.

    This is not difficult to understand.

    Would you enter in any competitive arena without knowing that the other parties are playing by the same rules as you are? Of course not. To do otherwise would be the definition of stupidity, a quality most politicians are not lacking in, sadly.

    Trump is the only politician talking about the need for FREE trade to be FAIR trade. As well it should be.

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