Trump's Top Trade Official Says China Tariffs Didn't Harm Coronavirus Preparedness. Don't Buy His Spin.

Robert Lighthizer, head of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says tariffs aren't hurting America's response to the virus. He's also lifting those tariffs to help with the response.


The Trump administration ignored the warnings of medical professionals who said hiking tariffs on Chinese imports would reduce America's ability to respond to a public health crisis—like the one the health care system is currently facing.

But amid the COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is still trying to defend the Trump administration's actions. After numerous news outlets (Reason among them) reported last week on the disastrous consequences of Trump's trade policy as it relates to the ongoing shortage of coronavirus-fighting medical equipment, Lighthizer took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to defend the administration's actions. His arguments are misleading at best and, in the end, actually serve as an admission that Trump's anti-trade policies have indeed harmed America's preparedness for an outbreak.

First, Lighthizer points out that "the administration imposed no new tariffs on several key products needed to fight the virus like breathing masks, oxygen masks, ventilators, and nebulizers."

This is true. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about many other products. Hand sanitizer, patient monitors, thermometers, oxygen concentrators, medical protective clothing, sterile gloves, and more were targeted with tariffs in three phases since July 2018. Those tariffs were imposed despite repeated warnings from medical professionals that they would disrupt supply chains and erode the health care industry's ability to respond to a crisis, as Reason reported last week.

Unsurprisingly, American imports of those Chinese-made medical products fell by 16 percent between 2017 (the last full year before Trump's tariffs) and 2019.

Secondly, Lighthizer admits that "imports of certain other medical products from China have declined since tariffs were imposed," but argues that those declines have been offset by an increase in imports from other countries.

"The evidence that I presented does not show that," says Chad Bown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

It was Bown's research that served as the basis for the Journal piece to which Lighthizer was responding. What that research shows, in fact, is that American imports of products form the rest of the world (not counting China) increased by about 23 percent in 2017 (the last full year before the anti-China tariffs), and again by 23 percent in 2018. In other words, Bown explained in an email to Reason, America was buying more products from all sources before the tariffs—likely the product of having an aging population that was demanding more health care—but imports from non-China sources did not increase at a faster rate as Chinese imports declined.

"My read of the data is that imports from the rest of the world in the product categories hit with tariffs did not grow much faster than the products not hit with tariffs," Bown says. "And for his argument to hold up, that is the argument that would need to be made."

Even if you give Lighthizer the benefit of the doubt on this point—that is, let's pretend that imports from other parts of the world did offset the decrease in imports from China—Americans still end up as losers in the trade war.

"Even if we import the same amount now as before, we pay higher prices, and thus endure unnecessarily high costs of preventing and treating coronavirus," points out Don Boudreaux, a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Thirdly, Lighthizer argues that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion because "the U.S. Trade Representative granted immediate exclusions from [the China tariffs] for all critical medical products weeks ago."

In other words, he wants credit for undoing the very policies that he's also claiming didn't actually harm America's coronavirus response. If they didn't matter, one might wonder, why undo them?

The obvious answer is that the Trump administration knows full well that the tariffs were a barrier to importing medical equipment that would be critical to fighting the coronavirus. They know that because medical professionals literally told them so at public hearings about the China tariffs.

Removing the tariffs was the right thing to do, but Lighthizer and Trump don't get to take credit for choosing on March 10 to lift barriers that they were responsible for imposing in the first place, nor do they get credit for the fact that they left the tariffs in place until well after COVID-19 had reached American shores.

The Trump administration is now seeking public comments on those recent modifications to the China tariffs as they apply to medical equipment. It ought to be eye-opening to see what members of the health care industry and medical professionals have to say.

Hopefully, this time, Trump and Lighthizer will listen.

NEXT: Texas, Ohio Officials Use COVID-19 as an Excuse To Restrict Abortion

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  1. Boehm, do you feel any shame at all?

    1. We are staring down the barrel of a great depression and 25% unemployment and this clown is talking about tariffs. Fuck him.

      1. He’s lucky The State exists. It literally keeps him alive

        1. He can phone in his articles while watching netflix. Why can’t everyone else?

          1. How DARE Boehm not properly bow and worship the Trumptatorship?!?! He is a TRAITOR!!!

            UnReason simply cannot and will not understand that a trade war of all against all is THE BEST thing for everyone, all around!

            1. wow. I hope you have enough canned food and bullets for what’s coming. If you think tarriffs should be a pressing concern right now with what is happening you are an idiot. Tarriffs should be like 50th down the list.

              1. If these companies had built up reserves instead of constantly squeezing every last drop out of the corporation then they would be in a better position to weather this storm. Capitalism only works if you let these irresponsible companies die.

                1. This response has shit to do with tariffs. You know that, right?

                  1. And besides Rmac We should all have enough cash reserves to survive not only a pandemic but our gov actively keeping us from working with a gun. What’s don’t you understand?

                2. Dude you realize our tax structure actively prohibits companies from keeping cash reserves right?

                  1. He doesn’t understand a goddamn thing. Hence his jackassed comment. Living in welfare for years at a time creates that perspective.

                3. Captain hindsight is here! Yay! He did such a great service to us all after the BP oil spill!


                4. Companies don’t build up and stock up for 100 year events. They never have. They never will. Come into reality.

              2. Squirrelly only needs one bullet. And he can finally do something libertarian with it.

            2. It’s obvious that moving 95% of US antibiotic supplies to China had no downsides. It’s UNAMERICAN to not support China!

      2. Are you not even aware that at least a third of the blame for the severity of the original “great depression” was in fact caused by a contraction of international trade in response to a worldwide crisis? You think that we should follow that model now?
        Seriously, you should know what you are talking about before you go and swear at people.

        1. What were the tariff levels in the 1920’s before the Great Depression?

          Physician, heal thyself.

        2. I’m not remotely making a statement of trade one way or another, tarriffs are generally not how I’d conduct business, not a huge fan. That being said they are not even close to the top 5 economic topics we should be focused on right now imho. We were in the middle of an enourmous supply shock from this bugs impact on china not even accounting for trade. I work in construction and do some small engine repair, you can’t get shit right now and it’s not because of tarriffs. It’s because of and this bugs impact on our supply structure and nobody stocks anything. Tarriffs have a marginal impact on that obviously but it’s not the only reason it’s because our supply chains are so strong we don’t need to incur the costs of storage. We should probably revisit this model after this is all over in some industries.

          1. He doesn’t understand that a 5% tax on goods not shipped is actually 0 dollars. Neither does Boehm.

      3. Can you imagine being in a foxhole with that useless son of a bitch?

    2. All of Boehm’s articles on this are based on Chad Bown’s Chinese Government handjob on the Peterson Institute for International Economics website.

      What Bown fails to mention, is that the Chinese are minor producers at best of most of the medical products mentioned in the article. Only if Trump had popped tariffs on the US and Germany would most of the products be affected.

      What we’re being fed here is CCP propaganda.

      1. +10000

    3. Hack’s like Boehm don’t feel shame. Their livelihood depends on being Propagandists, so that’s what he does.

      What hack writers do feel is anger when this hysteria caused market downturn turns into an even bigger boom than before because are happy it was not that bad. Plus they need to restock consumed supplies.

      Then Trump gets reelected in spite of Propaganda efforts to destroy America and because he did not become Lincoln or FDR during a crisis.


      1. I kind of hope the stupid fuck receives an ironic punishment in the form of a savage beating from a gaggle of Antifa thugs.

        Not that he would learn a thing from it.

    4. Boehm still refuses to acknowledge that China and India ordered shipments to turn around. Literally more harmful than any tariffs.

      1. I was waiting for that the whole article.

  2. are you for real dude?

  3. Tariffs imploding!

  4. Reason claims open borders and “free” trade with corrupt dictatorships didn’t cause this pandemic. Don’t buy their spin.

  5. So according to reason things that are lifesaving just don’t get imported if there is a tariff on them? People don’t just pay the tariff and import it anyway?

    Yeah that makes sense.

    1. On something as demand price inelastic as healthcare during a pandemic.

      What a total fucking hack. I’d cancel my subscription if I had one.

  6. I am against tariffs, but the idea that these meager tariffs have had “disastrous consequences” is just straight up hyperbole.

    Boehm even concedes this through the article. He agrees that the items we are critically short of (masks, ventilators, etc) are not on subject to tariffs. So the pending disaster in our hospitals- not having enough ventilators- is not due to the Tariffs.

    So then he goes on to point out items that ARE subject to Tariffs. That includes hand sanitizer, thermometers, protective clothing, etc. Now I have read a lot about people trying to make hand sanitizer locally, but that is because we have had a doubling or tripling of demand. How is that shortage a “disastrous consequence” of Trump’s shitty tariffs? We might have 10% more hand sanitizer when we need 300% more. And is it a “Disaster” that we don’t have enough sanitizer in the first place, when washing hands is as effective? (Keep in mind that even 5 years ago, people were kvetching about sanitizer as contributing to drug resistant bacteria.)

    And of course Boehm realizes he can’t PROVE that the tariffs are the proximate cause of any critical shortages, so instead he falls back on “Americans are paying more.”

    Look, I agree. Tariffs suck, don’t do what we intend, make us pay more, and may have even contributed to somewhat less inventories. But nobody in their right mind could believe that without these tariffs we wouldn’t be critically short of all this shit. The Swine Flu drew down our strategic reserve of masks by some 80% back in 09 and nobody bothered to replace them. Tariffs didn’t cause that.

    If you want to make a snarky point about tariffs, do it. But to claim that these shortages are the “disastrous consequence” of tariffs is stealing quite a few bases.

    1. Now I have read a lot about people trying to make hand sanitizer locally, but that is because we have had a doubling or tripling of demand.

      They have U.S. distilleries that have literally retooled just to produce hand-sanitizer. The auto companies have retooled to produce ventilators. Tariffs aren’t the problem. China withholding medical supplies and drugs wasn’t tariff-related either. It was just about a power play on their party.

      Boehm is an idiot.

      1. A hostile foreign power doesn’t always make optimal free market decisions? Unpossible!

        1. Yeah, it’s almost as if the giant totalitarian government doesn’t actually see trade in humanitarian terms but just sees it as a way to impose their will on other countries.

    2. And by the way, the reason I am so critical of these articles is because they are so fucking childish.

      Seriously, this article is just like when one of my kids gets pushed by their sibling. Sure, they shouldn’t have been pushed, but then they spend twenty minutes acting like they were shivved with a rusty nail. They don’t need to turn a minor infraction into a fucking peacekeeping intervention, and Eric doesn’t need to turn this one minor point into the cause of all suffering during one of the most exceptional natural disasters to hit the US in decades.

    3. Boehm has one trick: Trump tariffs bad.

      It doesn’t matter what is really going on, what the topic is, etc. Boehm is going to write an article about Trump tariffs bad.

      I actually have to admit I’m a bit jealous of Boehm and Shrika. To be able to make a living writing the same article over and over is a pretty good gig.

    4. The problem with things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper is panic hoarding. Especially with toilet paper. Since this is a respiratory illness, and does not increase shitting in any significant way.

      I talked to a guy from Winco last week that said they had to stop so,e woman from buy an entire PALLET of toilet paper. Which contained over 1,200 rolls.

      She did not own a business, or run an orphanarium.

      1. This. I wonder who should bear the most responsibility, behind the idiots who actually stocked up on tp of all things, of course, for the panic that caused this behavior?

      2. “The problem with things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper is panic hoarding.”

        No the problem is that Toilet Paper is a bulky item that is nearly impossible to stock in large amounts. When you compress 3 weeks worth of shopping into 2 days (as happened when everyone saw that we were going to get locked down), you are going to run out. You can’t put three weeks worth of big, bulky products in the back of a store.

        THAT leads to people thinking (incorrectly) that there is a shortage, which leads to hoarding, which compounds the problem.

        1. It’s actually a bit of both I’d bet. Because regardless of how much can be stored, there was still a lot of people right from the beginning of this buying shopping carts full of tp.

          The store by me ran out of it before there was a single case in my state, about two weeks ago.

  7. I’ll be blunt. Once this pandemic’s curve is flattened and the economy is back on the road to recovery, I’m all in favor of doubling the tariffs on China and laying waste to their economy.

    Their government has shown with this behavior, throughout this crisis, that they’re our enemy and they at best do not care what damage they do to the rest of the world and even more often intentionally add to the damage with policy intended to undermine our economy and endanger the health of our citizens. They also cannot be trusted to abide by any trade agreements they signed.

    It’s not even about trade at this point…it’s beating an authoritarian bully down into the ground until they learn their place in the world order.

    1. It’s almost as if some self-labeled rational “libertarians” have a blind faith that free market individualism will operate inside totalitarian states in spite of millennia of human history proving otherwise, and that dictatorships cannot survive for decades and cause massive externalities on their neighbors or the world. Cartels can never really hurt you as OPEC showed in 1973. Oh wait…

      1. unreason writers are NOT Libertarians.

        Anarchists, Democrats, Progressives, and Socialists and you would be correct.

        1. We all have to be nice to socialists now. They share so many common traits with libertarians don’t you know?

          Time for a Bailey technocratic solution to all of the world’s problems again. How’d that Oxitec trial turn out?

          1. Never trust transhumanists. Full stop.

      2. It’s almost as if some self-labeled rational “libertarians” have a blind faith that free market individualism will operate inside totalitarian states in spite of millennia of human history proving otherwise

        That was the entire rationale for granting China “most favored nation” trade status in the WTO…that increasing trade with other countries would force China to liberalize. And that’s been shown to be false. They’re as authoritarian as they ever were (and marching quickly in a more authoritarian direction), they’re just wealthier and more powerful and able to do more damage thanks to the money they’ve made in trade.

        And I don’t fault people for taking that risk to begin with. It was the conventional wisdom at the time and China represented a lucrative market that could benefit other countries in trade as well. But once it became clear that China had no interest in abiding by trade agreements, respecting IP laws, or sabotaging other people’s economies (many times through what can only be described as acts of war), that status should have been yanked.

        But thanks to the wealth they generated from trade, they were able to buy off enough politicians to prevent that from happening…including a U.S. President and a couple of U.S. presidential candidates.

        1. “…or *not* sabotaging other countries’ economies…”

    2. “I’m all in favor of doubling the tariffs on China and laying waste to their economy.”

      It’s a hell of a lot nicer than what the American public will demand from them in a month. Either someone dropped a test tube during gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses, or the virus arose from their negligent lack of sanitation and close confinement of wildly diverse species in their wet markets—something they were warned repeatedly over the last twenty years or so could give rise to this kind of epidemic.

      Both are gross negligence. The fuckers need to pay.

      1. Given that this is the third pandemic China’s unleashed on the world in the last 20 years and all of them have been traced back to the fucked up dietary habits of their wealthy, their unwillingness to enforce sanitary standards, and their utter indifference to consequences, I’m inclined to say that it’s standard Chinese communist incompetence.

        1. They consider their populations to be largely disposable and have no constitutional rights.

      2. I agree – a complete reassessment of our relationship with China is in order. A part of this reassessment will be to determine the impact of China’s serial lying, serial cheating, and serial theft. For damned sure, China’s obfuscation and lying about the nature of the Wuhan coronavirus has to be a significant portion of that reassessment. Their malignant actions have directly lead to the deaths of Americans. Those malignant actions against the United States of America cannot go unaddressed.

        Soon enough, this will pass. Then we can deal with China.

      3. Our failure is not due to China. Our failure is because we CHOSE to ignore what they DID when they belatedly did do something. We failed to focus on the virus. We failed to learn why they did something as consequential as shutting down their entire economy starting in January. We instead skipped along in DeRptyDeRptyDeRpty. We’ve built a wall against it. Everything’s under control. We’ve got this. Market looks really good now. It’s a hoax.

        Shame you’ve fallen back into that DeRpty. You too were one of the first to see that this virus wasn’t just the seasonal flu.

        1. Where the fuck did you think this virus came from? The sky?

          Our inept response—shared by just about every other country not a technological police state or filled with Koreans, by the way——is a separate issue from their gross negligence in causing this bug to arise in the first place.

        2. I like how you think shutting down our economy would have been more impactful than shutting down travel into the country from China. Do you magically think the Virus replicates across oceans without importation on a host?

          I also like that you think China shut down everything when they were the ones who exported the virus in the first place.

          Your views on this subject are hilarious.

    3. When this all started my wife predicted war with China. I disagreed with her then, now I’m not so sure.

      There will have to be serious repercussions against China, and they will react. How they react will be very important.

      1. “How they react will be very important.”

        Given their ruling class is a bunch of only children and their state propaganda is going full blast accusing the US of being behind this and/or squandering the opportunity China’s sacrifice gave the world, I am guessing they won’t react well. They won’t be contrite, and they might decide to put some lead in the national pencil and see just how willing to go to bat for the Phillipines the US is in 2020.

        1. I’d worry more about Taiwan.

          1. Taiwan will push their shit in if they try anything—including probably using turnkey nuclear-tipped IRBMs—and both sides know it.

            The Phillipines have a big EEZ that is a reason why China can’t just claim all of the O&G in the South China Sea. Plus, Duarte has been playing a lot of footsie with them lately. Why not make them a full fledged client state?

  8. Meanwhile in the real world…
    Trump’s Washing Machine Tariffs Cleaned Out Consumers
    A new report finds the tariffs raised $82 million for the U.S. Treasury but ended up increasing costs for consumers by about $1.2 billion.
    Protect American washing-machine makers from Chinese competition? The FIRST thing that American washing-machine makers do, is jack UP their prices… AND the prices of dryers to boot, too! To SOAK the hell out of all of us consumers!!!
    From the above-linked Reason article about washing machines…
    “All told, those tariffs raised about $82 million for the U.S. Treasury but ended up increasing costs for consumers by about $1.2 billion during 2018 … (deleted). Although the trade policy did cause some manufacturers to shift production from overseas to the United States in an effort to avoid the new tariffs, the 1,800 jobs created by Trump’s washing machine tariffs cost consumers an estimated $820,000 per job.”
    Summary: Nickels and dimes to the USA treasury; boatloads of pain for consumers. USA jobs created? Yes, at GREAT expense! Putting these 1.8 K workers on a super-generous welfare program would have been WAY better for all the rest of us! Plus, you know the WORKERS don’t make super-huge bucks (no $820,000 per job for THEM); the goodies flow to the EXECUTIVES at the top of the washing-machine companies! The same ones who play golf with The Donald, and join him for gang-banging Stormy Daniels! Essentially at our expense!

    And now, it is our PATRIOT DUTY as China-haters, to die, for lack of medical supplies, so that fat-cat execs can get bigger bonuses here in the USA, and we can beat those yellow-skinned authoritarian bastards into the ground!

    1. That’s like quoting Mark Zandi.

      Research from a trio of economists at the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve show that retailers made the decision to hike the price of both washing machines and dryers (since they are frequently bought together) after the tariffs took effect.

      Right, the tariffs MADE the retailers hike prices on goods that weren’t impacted by the tariff.

      1. Squirrelly claims to have been a military officer. I call bullshit. I ily doubt he’s capable of holding any job without being fired for being a massive idiot, or being beaten to death by coworkers.

        1. Shitsy Shitler is too stupid to make any intelligent comments. He claims to have a brain. I think he’s just a Trumpbot. The Russians sure don’t know how to write very good auto-spamming code!

          1. You truly beclown yourself with every you write. Everyone here hates and age at you.


            1. Tell your Russian code-writer spam-bot generators that their code SUCKS!!! This spambot here is gonna get Joe Biden re-elected! Russians… Up your game! Your defeating yourselves!

  9. Most PPE’s, of which we are critically short, are just those kinds of simple manufactured goods for which China has such a huge comparative advantage to produce. Trump’s trade taxes were, of course, a “yuge” contributor to our critical shortage.

    It’s key though that we understand the truth about Trump’s tariffs, that they are nothing but a thinly veiled national sales tax regime. Progressives have long sought some type of VAT of veiled national sales tax in the USA, like so many other countries suffer. These opaque taxes allow them to better hide how much they steal.

    ‘Nationalist’ Is How a Republican Spells ‘Progressive.’
    ~ David French

    1. Trump tariffs got all major trading partners to lower their trade restrictions.

      That set a precedent that Trump can use tariffs to get our trading partners to possibly lower their Socialist trade restrictions.

    2. A national sales tax would be far, far more libertarian than the mess we have now.

      ‘Libertarian’ is how an observant man spells ‘Socialist.’

      1. I’ll disagree about the national sales tax, or any sales tax, being “libertarian”. Consumption taxes fall far more heavily on the poor because it consumes a greater percentage of their income than it does for higher-income people.

        Flat income tax is the libertarian solution.

        1. A consumption tax IS a flat tax. Proportional taxes are not regressive (and I hate that word).

          1. While either a transparent and end user only national sales tax or a flat tax would be better than our current mess or especially the growing worse mess of it plus Trump’s tariffs.

            The horror of tariffs and VATs lies in their being such usefully opaque and cumulative statist tools.

            1. Tariffs and VATs and other sales taxes are far, far less destructive than our progressive individual income tax and don’t get me started on capital gains and corporate income taxes. The problem with Europe is that they applied the Reese’s Law of taxes and implemented them both.

              1. I agree about capital gains and corporate taxes (and I loathe the estate tax).

                But I’ll disagree with VAT being less destructive. I used to live in the UK and all VAT does there is hide the amount of taxes that you’re paying in a product from the consumer. Their rate was about 17% when I was there. I’d have British friends who come to the States and bitch about our sales tax being so horrible, until I pointed out to them that they were paying half the tax on the things they bought here that they were in the UK. Most of them never realized just how much they pay in tax.

                It’s the kind of policy Milton Friedman said was the worst thing long-term…hiding the amount of tax you pay makes it easier for the government to nickel and dime you to death.

                1. That is no different than income tax and payroll tax withholding in the US. You can hide any tax.

              2. Not to mention, consumption taxes on things like gasoline drive up the prices of all goods and services, since almost everything everything uses transportation at some point.

                1. No more than the income taxes already do. But even if they did it’s still a better allocation because you are tax wealth destruction, i.e. the consumption of gasoline. We want to unburden production as much as possible and shifting the tax burden to consumption drives that.

              3. “The problem with Europe is that they applied the Reese’s Law of taxes and implemented them both.”

                As did Trump by stacking his tariffs on top of our existing onerous taxation.

                The opaque and cumulative nature of tariffs and VATs is what the statists love as much as does trump a flowery letter from a dictator.

                An end use sales tax with that tax printed right out in bold print on the sales ticket or better on the price sticker would be an entirely different and better tax.

                1. Please. Just parroting the Reason line doesn’t help here. Comparing limited tariffs to a global VAT is Reason-level disingenuous.

                  1. Funny definition of “limited.”

                    Trump imposed tariffs enough to push him past Obama as the third worst president for new or increased taxes, and he proposed tariffs enough to push him past Clinton as the second and LBJ as the first.

          2. A consumption tax is not a flat tax.

            If you’re making $100,000 a year in salary and you’re paying $6,000 a year for food (roughly $500 a month) at an 8.2% tax (about the rate where I live), that’s $492 a year, or a 0.4% tax on your income. If you’re making $40,000 a year (about the national average income), that same amount is a 1.23% tax on your income. Same with any other consumption tax on goods that people generally have to buy (e.g. gasoline, clothing). Those costs, if you assume the same consumption levels between the higher-income person and the average-income person, are going to be a much higher proportion of their budget.

            And that doesn’t even get into the second- and third-hand effects of a consumption tax, such as how does one apply a sales tax to and enforce a sales tax on secondhand goods without creating a black market?

            1. A consumption tax is absolutely a flat tax. Everyone is charged the same percentage based on the cost of the good. By your reasoning all prices are regressive because by definition those with less income are paying a higher percentage of it regardless of the good. We should be charging lower income people less for the same food!

              The answer to your second point is easy: we don’t. You only tax the first retail sale. If you’re worried about accounting and ppl playing the “I’m a corporation” game, then you can make it a VAT which will stick them with the last tax at the price of increasing overhead and costs.

              Finally, if you want a national sales tax to be progressive (and it sure sounds like you do), then you can exempt spending up to the poverty limit by sending a prebate to everyone of the tax value of poverty-level spending.

              1. Everyone is charged the same percentage based on the cost of the good.

                But it’s not the same percentage of their budgets. Budgets tend to have far less flexibility the less income you bring in.

                By your reasoning all prices are regressive because by definition those with less income are paying a higher percentage of it regardless of the good.

                Sure, but the price is based on the scarcity of the item, the demand for the item, and the level at which you can recoup production costs and make a profit. The sales tax is just how government skims off the top of each transaction by passing the costs onto consumers. It’s a beneficial thing to society when people can produce things and other people can buy them. The sales tax, to my mind, is just government doing some additional rent-seeking because they don’t want to live within their means, and usually adds very little value to society. I feel the same about property taxes.

                If we’re going to tax people to pay for stuff, I want the tax rate to remain the same for everyone regardless of income level. That’s a better way to hold government accountable for what they take from us.

                1. Or perhaps I should say I want the rate of taxation to remain the same for everyone regardless of income level…meaning, for example, 10% tax on everyone’s income, rather than 10% tax on everything people buy with that income.

                  Especially since consumption taxes also tend to decrease consumption (and, eventually, production).

                  1. “Especially since consumption taxes also tend to decrease consumption (and, eventually, production).”

                    Yay, more Demand-side. Consumption is destruction of wealth. Period. When you eat a banana you are one banana poorer. Consumption is what we want, production is what we need.

                    1. Consumption is destruction of wealth. Period. When you eat a banana you are one banana poorer.

                      The people who grow, harvest, transport, and sell you those bananas that you eat aren’t. The people who make money from the consumption made possible by the income those banana workers make from their jobs aren’t poorer.

                      Also, you realize bananas aren’t durable goods and are relatively easy to replace? At least until Panama disease wipes out the trees, anyway.

                    2. Actually, I guess it’s more accurately called “fusarium” rather than Panama disease…since it’s spread well beyond Panama.

                2. Which is exactly what the tax is as well. The tax is there to pay the costs of government. The cost of the good is part of the tax. If everyone consumes the same why shouldn’t they pay the same? Explain why more productive people need to pay more.

        2. Sales taxes are far more libertarian than any other form of taxation–for a number of reasons.

          One reason is that they’re paid on a more voluntary basis. If the consumer doesn’t want to pay for a tax on cars, they can choose not to pay it because it makes the car too expensive.

          Set those taxes too high, and the government starts to lose tax revenue–immediately. Meanwhile, sales taxes allow consumers to gauge the relative impact on the economy of taxation on a purchase by purchase basis–instead of handing the government a portion of of every paycheck and then another check at the end of the year. In other words, the sales tax subjects taxation to market discipline and consumers can choose to veto the tax.

          You know what isn’t a libertarian form of taxation?

          “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

          —-Karl Marx

          The redistribution of wealth is the cornerstone of socialism, and taxing income, profits, and capital gains is all about the redistribution of wealth. There is probably nothing more authoritarian and socialist than the idea that we owe the government money because I earned it.

          1. I don’t think anyone here is arguing for the “progressive” tax rate based on income bracket. I’m certainly not. I just believe in a flat tax rate on income.

            I used to think consumption tax was the better approach, but I changed my mind on it, based on the reasons I listed in a comment above.

            1. A flat income tax hits the poor just as hard as a consumption tax, because both are flat taxes.

              1. A consumption tax is not a flat tax if you assume consumption level for essential goods is roughly the same between the high-income and low-income persons. The consumption tax eats up a greater proportion of the lower-income person’s budget.

                1. Again, you are arguing that the poor should be charged a different rate than everyone else. The logical extension of your reasoning is no different than Bernie’s “equality.”

                  1. The poor are charged a different rate under your plan, if you assume the same level of consumption for *essential* goods (meaning the stuff you need to buy to survive). The “you determine your own level of taxation” portion of it only comes in when you’re talking about *non-essential* goods (meaning things purchased with discretionary income, *after* you’ve purchased essential goods). There’s a lot less discretionary income in a lower-income person’s budget, and a less flexibility in that budget for essential goods when you increase sales tax.

                    And that’s great for you, if you make a bigger salary. It’s not so great for someone who doesn’t. It just makes it harder for them to accumulate wealth and live within their means. I’m no socialist, but I am opposed to that even though I’d likely benefit greatly from a consumption tax.

            2. Because a flat tax on income is better than a graduated tax on income doesn’t make it better than no tax on income. Income is probably the stupidest possible thing to tax.

              For one thing, it artificially inflates the cost of hiring unemployed people or keeping employed people on the payroll. How can that be smart–especially when we’re staring into a recession over the next couple of quarters?

              If I have to pay you $40,000 a year plus 20% to pay your income taxes, then you have artificially inflated the cost of hiring people. That’s not only relative to the cost of automation, that’s also relative to the cost of NOT expanding. When the cost of developing an industrial park is higher than the sale or lease of those buildings can justify, the park isn’t built.

              Likewise, when President Trump eliminating the regulation and tax and hiring people relative to ObamaCare, the resulting increase in hiring of unskilled workers was such that for the first time since anymore can remember, the wages of the unskilled rose faster than the wages of their managers. That is a small taste of what would happen if we stopped taxing people’s incomes. If the health of our economy and our standard of living depends on factors like productivity and participation in the work force, then taxing income is probably the stupidest possible thing to tax–regardless of whether a flat tax is better than a progressive tax.

              Meanwhile, a sales tax avoids all that shit.

              1. I would say that death is the stupidest thing to tax. And then gasoline after that.

              2. For one thing, it artificially inflates the cost of hiring unemployed people or keeping employed people on the payroll. How can that be smart–especially when we’re staring into a recession over the next couple of quarters?

                Actually a payroll tax does that, not an income tax. I get that they’re tied together because they’re theoretically out of the same compensation pool, but they are different things in terms of accounting. I’m opposed to payroll taxes too, since that’s also a way of hiding how the government nickels-and-dimes taxpayers by superficially moving the costs to a different party (just like a corporate tax).

                The income tax (meaning the proportion of money paid from salary) does not artificially inflate the cost of hiring. The cost of hiring is already baked in that that point, with salary, benefits, and payroll taxes.

                1. “I’m opposed to payroll taxes too, since that’s also a way of hiding how the government nickels-and-dimes taxpayers by superficially moving the costs to a different party (just like a corporate tax).”

                  Just another example of how opaque and cumulative taxation is the most dangerous taxation.

                  The primary reason for a tariff is that it enables the exploitation of the domestic consumer by a process indistinguishable from sheer robbery. – AJ Nock

              3. Income is probably the stupidest possible thing to tax.

                Absolutely true. I have never understood why we would ever want to tax income. Why punish human effort and achievement? That is just crazy.

                Tax consumption instead. Besides, consumption provides a much broader base. How do these shithead politicians fail to see that basic fact? There is much more consumption available to tax than income. /SMH

  10. *pops popcorn*

    Here we go…

  11. The saddest thing for unreason is that America will NOT burn (yet) even with all the terrific work by Lefties and their Propagandists.

  12. I opposed President’s Trump’s trade war with China before he initiated it and while it was escalating. I opposed President Trump’s trade war as it was deescalating. When the last tariff is lifted, I don’t see why I won’t oppose his trade war with China in retrospect either. It was bad for the American economy and bad for American consumers.

    That being said, anybody who thinks that the coronavirus was a good reason for President Trump not launch his trade with China–back in the first quarter of 2018–is being stupid in a very specific way.

    “The historian’s fallacy is an informal fallacy that occurs when one assumes that decision makers of the past viewed events from the same perspective and having the same information as those subsequently analyzing the decision.”

    Just because you oppose Trump’s trade war doesn’t mean you need to be stupid about it. In fact, just because you oppose Trump’s reelection doesn’t mean you need to be stupid about that either. Want to argue that we should vote for no one, Joe Biden, or the LP candidate instead of President Trump, and I’m willing to listen–so long as you make a valid and reasonable argument.

    There are all sorts of great reasons to oppose President Trump’s trade war with China–but coronavirus preparation isn’t a good one. People who make that argument or think it’s persuasive are stupid if the definition of stupid people is people who believe stupid things for stupid reasons.

    Don’t be stupid.

    1. Myself among a few others on here literally said that Trump would be blamed for COVID19 and the media hysteria was manufacturer toward that goal.

      Anyone who does not see that the MSM are playing by the Socialist Propaganda handbook, they need to open their eyes.

    2. The “historian’s fallacy”, aka “The way leftists interpret all history, whenever they’re not simply lying.”

      1. The left really is more prone to that fallacy, and I think it has something to do with their belief that the government should be in control of everything.

        If you believe that everything bad that happens could have been prevented if the government were in charge, then everything bad that happens is an indictment of less government.

        Meanwhile, even if the government were in charge of everything, the future would be just as unpredictable as it always was. Putting the government in charge doesn’t change the unpredictable nature of the future in the least.

        1. The left really is more prone to that fallacy, and I think it has something to do with their belief that the government should be in control of everything.

          The useful idiots certainly fall prey to it. The ones who see socialism as their path to personal power, however, are simply lying about it. It’s not a logical fallacy when you’re well aware of what the truth is and are simply trying to deceive people.

          1. So this begs the question: is Boehm a liar or a useful idiot?

            1. I’m pretty sure he’s an idiot.

              I don’t think he’s a leftist, though. I just think he’s a standard “libertarian” purist who has no idea how anything in the world actually works outside of his bubble, so he just plugs the generic libertarian guideposts into his articles, doesn’t ask whether or not the situation is more complex than he understands, and calls it good.

              1. Agreed. But I don’t think you really have to be a leftist to be a useful idiot.

                1. True, but given he’s a blogger who writes for Reason, I don’t really think there’s much potential for him to be useful. 🙂

                  1. Propaganda is always useful.

    3. Ken, why do you assume using tariffs as a tool of trade policy is economic policy? It is not. It is foreign policy.

  13. 1. Tariffs are bad economic policy.

    2. The motivation for Trump’s Chinese tariffs was his belief that China is bad.

    3. Now we have a new form of massive evidence of China’s badness.

    Ergo, perhaps not the best time to criticize Trump over Chinese tariffs.

    1. Yeah, just because something is true doesn’t make it appealing.

      I’d support the Second Amendment even IF IF IF repealing it really would translate into fewer mass shootings, but that’s probably not a good argument to lead with if we’re trying to appeal to swing voters in an election year.

      1. Reason loves to invoke externalities when it comes to global warming. Funny how an obvious externality to open borders and “free” trade is ignored.

        1. Global warming isn’t part of their religion, open borders is.

          At least not yet. One of these days we’re going to come on Reasons site and there will be a new author with an article about global warming. Or not. I really hope not.

          1. “Global warming isn’t part of their religion.”

            Yet. Though Bailey was doing his damndest a few years ago to shill for cap and trade, and for a market in carbon. I guess it didn’t pan out for the Kochs, so that was the last we heard of that.

            All I’m saying is, their religion? It’s flexible, and always looking for new worshippers.

    2. 1. Tariffs are bad economic policy *if both parties’ desired ends are optimal economic outcomes*. They can be beneficial policy when one state is attempting to use trade as a method of destabilizing and weakening a political opponent with ill intent.

      2. The motivation for Trump’s Chinese tariffs is his belief that allowing China to engage in unchallenged protectionism will eventually hollow out key sectors of the American economy and leave us at the mercy of a totalitarian state with global ambitions to rule.

      3. Authoritarian states are usually bad. China’s been a bad actor in foreign policy since long before America was even a thing.

  14. Good grief, one of the biggest problems in this crisis has been that our supply chains are so tied to China. Trump tried to “disrupt” those supply chains so that we don’t have to rely on a murderous communist regime as much, a regime that has already threatened to cut off vital medical supplies if we don’t give in to their demands. But according to Boehm, that’s all just fine; apparently, we should become 100% a client state of China and a place where Chinese communist party officials buy their holiday homes, staffed by illegal Mexican servants. That’s Boehm’s vision for America.

    1. Boehm is a fucking birdbrain.

  15. Trump playing the long game since 2018, genius!

  16. Any barrier to trade other than health concerns is a problem at this time.

    That should be obvious.

  17. Jesus christ I cannot believe what I just read. This guy is bleating idiot

  18. China fucks over the world with a virus, Trump proactively does something years in advance to make us less economically dependent upon them, and you’re telling us that because there are costs to ditching China we should never do it. Okie dokie, boomer.

  19. Trump’s manifest ignorance baffles so many because of his skill in growing his cult of personality proves that he is not a congenital moron. What Trump is is an insect. In his famous quote, Heinlen said that “…specialization is for insects.” Trump has specialized so completely in self-promotion that he has no other skills, nor even thoughts. Trump is an insect – a very poisonous insect.

    1. The walls are closing in. On you.

  20. “…despite repeated warnings from medical professionals that they would disrupt supply chains and erode the health care industry’s ability to respond to a crisis…”

    These unnamed ‘medical professionals’ also knew about the coronavirus, no doubt?

    You can probably blame anyone for the coronavirus if you try hard enough. But Trump’s policies are LESS responsible for this crisis than those policies advocated by Reason (free trade and open borders).

    Yes. The corona pandemic is caused by globalism and free trade. I’m all for the latter and some for the former, but if international travel was less free, there’d probably be no pandemic – which is why they’re closing it down.

    So quit blaming Trump. I didn’t vote for him and never will but I wouldn’t vote for anyone else either. As far as I’m concerned, the US has been dead since 1913.

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