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Free Minds & Free Markets

Rep. Justin Amash Slams Republican Leadership for Meaningless Response to Trump Tariffs

Amash wondered why Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan even want to be leaders in Congress “if all they intend to do is outsource their jobs to the president.”

Jeff Malet Photography/NewscomJeff Malet Photography/NewscomRep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) blasted congressional leadership Wednesday for failing to take meaningful action in response to President Donald Trump's tariff madness.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure earlier in the day limiting the president's power to impose tariffs for national security reasons. But the nonbinding measure won't actually do anything, and was seen as more of a symbolic gesture than anything else.

That's not good enough for Amash, who voiced his displeasure in a pair of tweets. The libertarian-leaning Republican blasted the Senate's action as "weak," calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.) to "defend Congress's powers with real legislation, not symbolic gestures." In a follow-up post, he wondered why McConnell and Ryan even "want to be congressional leaders if all they intend to do is outsource their jobs to the president."

The Senate's vote came the same day the Trump administration said it was imposing 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China. The White House claimed this measure was a response to tariffs imposed by China on American goods, though China's tariffs were retaliation for an earlier round of Trump tariffs. Though Congress has yet to address this trade war with meaningful legislation, the Senate's vote could be sign of things to come. As Reason's Eric Boehm noted yesterday:

The nonbinding vote is, for now, mostly meaningless. Still, the bipartisan support for limiting the president's ability to abuse the Section 232 tariff authority is the first sign that Republicans in Congress might be willing to stand up to Trump as he continues escalating an unnecessary trade war.

Amash, meanwhile, has previously voiced his disdain for Trump's tariffs. In March, not long after Trump imposed sweeping tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports into the United States, Amash called such tariffs "corporate welfare."

Photo Credit: Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...he wondered why McConnell and Ryan even "want to be congressional leaders if all they intend to do is outsource their jobs to the president."

    Power without responsibility?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    With great power, you can brush off great responsibility.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Case in point.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    It could back fire and leave them with responsibility in the eyes of the public, but no power.

  • tlapp||

    It's been happening at least since the creation of the Federal Reserve. Congress abdicates it's responsibility where tough decisions need to be make. Only control the purse strings and regulation that can garner and/or reward campaign donation.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This is all posturing by Amash, too. Few in the Republican party are about to run against the president in an election year. He knows that.

    Sometimes posturing is the best you can do, though.

    The problem is that if and when Trump is reelected in 2020, there won't be much in the way of free trade advocates come 2024. It's not like the Democrats are about to go free trade, and if protectionism wins Republicans the support they need from the swing state, rust belt to maintain their majorities or win the primaries, then they'll be doing more of that, not less.

    The free trade agreements we saw in the wake of the Cold War were a function of the end of the Cold War. That was a rare moment. Unless communism falls again sometimes soon, don't expect much inertia behind free trade.

    But why bother with any of that when we could just talk about Stormy Daniels and butt sex--is that's what libertarianism is all about. Capitalism is so passe.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Let's hope for a Blue Wave of morons to at least give us gridlock.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    But why bother with any of that when we could just talk about Stormy Daniels and butt sex--is that's what libertarianism is all about.

    Are you starting to realize that your political brand isn't selling anything the masses are interested in buying?

  • Don't look at me.||

    Well I dunno, what's the current price for butt sex?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Stormy Daniels isn't selling anybody's political ideas on anything.

    And when you're talking about my brand, do you mean free market capitalism and individual rights?

    That isn't "my brand". That's what it's all about.

    The Stormy Daniels and butt sex brand is why Amash is scratching his head wondering where all the capitalists went.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Capitalists were never in the Republican Party. They never met a corporate welfare that they didn't like.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Adam Smith knew this.
    That's why it's about freedom, not capitalism.
    Besides, why let Marx set the terminology of the discussion?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Bullshit.

    Because some people aren't perfectly capitalist doesn't mean they aren't more capitalist than the alternative--or that being more capitalist isn't better.

  • TLBD||

    What we have and have had is not free trade, anyway.

    Republicans and libertarians content with the status quo (conservative) with trade created Trump.

    Trump is directionally right in most of what he says, problem is his methods scare trade conservatives.

    If any country were to offer truly free trade with the US and not act as proxies for countries that don't agree, I guarantee he would take it. I believe he even offered it at G7.

  • Agammamon||

    So what. What we have now is *even less* free trade. 'Oh, we have managed trade, so that's justification enough for even more managed trade!'

  • livelikearefugee||

    I keep hearing that Trump really, deep down inside, wants free trade. But, that belies everything he's said for the last 30 years and that fact that he has Peter Navarro, a 17th century mercantilist, as his primary trade advisor.

    That's like having Heinrich Himmler as your Hebrew advisor.

  • ||

    Good point Ken. Reason hasn't posted any articles about trade recently. And you've not commented voluminously on those articles.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I can't relate to why they'd want to be congressional leaders if all they intend to do is outsource their jobs to the president.

    Wasn't there a congressman who proudly claimed Obama was "his boss"?

  • Agammamon||

    I don't know. There was a comedian who proclaimed, while looking stoned/half-asleep, that Obama was his father.

  • Kongming||

    I'm not surprised that congressional Republicans are completely spineless on this. I'm much more surprised/pissed at how many of my fellow "libertarians" on this site have turned out to be gung-ho trade protectionists. Pro tip: if you support the president's trade war, you should stop calling yourself a libertarian. It's more honest that way.

  • TLBD||

    I support his goals. His methods worry me, not so much in his hands, but because of the precedent it may set for future administrations who don't have a clue what they're doing.

  • Calidissident||

    What do you think Trump's goals are here? I also find the implication that he has a clue what he's doing here to be extremely laughable.

  • TLBD||

    That is because you have TDS, I'm sure. I find it laughable that people think he is stupid. Blows my mind, really, especially coming from libertarians.

    Trump's goals are to pressure other countries into freer trade agreements using the untapped economic and military-welfare leverage of the US.

  • Calidissident||

    Yes anyone who doesn't see the genius of Trump's plan here must have TDS.

    Protectionism is like the one thing Trump has been a consistent advocate of during his 30 years of commenting on politics. He's brought on protectionists as key advisers. He history of comments, both recent and in the past, lead to the inevitable conclusion that it's far more likely that he is opposed to free trade and has a poor understanding of it, than he's actually implementing some 4D chess to get totally free trade.

    If he really was interested in achieving freer trade, he would have tried to negotiate other countries lowering their tariffs and barriers further in exchange for the US lowering ours (it might be hard to believe if your sole source of information is Trump's twitter feed, but overall US tariffs and barriers are at a similar level compared to most of our top trading partners). Starting a trade war is a boneheaded way to go about things if that was actually his goal, and sends things in the opposite direction of what is needed.

  • Calidissident||

    *His

  • TLBD||

    41 year old Donald Trump:

    "I was tired, and I think a lot of other people are tired of watching other people ripping off the United States. This is a great country. They laugh at us. Behind our backs, they laugh at us because of our own stupidity. Our leaders — what we have, we have a Persian Gulf situation today. ... Billions and billions are paid getting oil for Japan, and they are paying nothing for it, essentially they're paying nothing for it."

    "I believe it's very important that you have free trade, but we don't have free trade right now."

    I'm not sure who you've been listening to, but it hasn't been Trump. He has been ridiculously consistent in those things that I have mentioned.

  • Calidissident||

    You think that supports your argument? His whole argument about us being ripped off is based on an economically illiterate (and selective) view of international trade. That he says "I'm in favor of free trade" means nothing when he says and does many things that indicate precisely the opposite. His shtick about Japan in the 80s was common at the time and laughable in hindsight, but his current views are no better.

  • TLBD||

    Like offering all G7 countries to drop all tarriffs?

    Q And I believe that you raised the idea of a tariff-free G7. Is that —

    THE PRESIDENT: I did. Oh, I did. That's the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers. That's the way it should be.

    Q How did it go down?

    THE PRESIDENT: And no subsidies. I even said no tariffs. In other words, let's say Canada — where we have tremendous tariffs — the United States pays tremendous tariffs on dairy. As an example, 270 percent. Nobody knows that. We pay nothing. We don't want to pay anything. Why should we pay?

    We have to — ultimately, that's what you want. You want a tariff-free, you want no barriers, and you want no subsidies, because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries, and that's not fair. So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free. That's the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance. I mean, that would be the ultimate thing. Now, whether or not that works — but I did suggest it, and people were — I guess, they got to go back to the drawing and check it out, right?

  • Shirley Knott||

    Funny, he could eliminate all those tariffs and trade restrictions that are under his control, but he won't until everybody else does it.
    Doesn't sound like leadership to me. Leave the other guys in charge. Smart.

    AKA "I won't stop hitting myself until you stop hitting yourself."

  • livelikearefugee||

    If Torquemada and Philip the Second of Spain had a child it would be Peter Navarro.

  • perlchpr||

    Stupid? No. But his own statements have strongly indicated that he's very ignorant about how international trade works.

  • Homple||

    So how does international trade work?

  • Agammamon||

    If he wanted to pressure other countries into freer trade agreements then all he had to do was simply withdraw from all the current trade agreements, dismantle all American tariffs, and tell everyone to sort it out themselves.

    Unilateral free trade is better than any 'trade agreement' ever made.

  • BYODB||

    Yes, until it becomes impossible to produce anything domestically that is. After all, American labor would be an enormous and ridiculous cost for any business to bear when they could move to China and avoid all that overhead.

    The same goes for environmental regulations.

    It would be pretty interesting to see what a production-free and jobless America would look like, though.

    Or...wait are we saying the entire libertarian agenda gets passed over night all over the planet, or are we saying just get what we can no matter how destructive it might ultimately be?

    Ah, nevermind. It doesn't really matter since no one at all is interested in libertarian solutions.

  • Shirley Knott||

    So you're saying free markets can't outperform controlled economies?

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Ding ding ding!

    It's the same mentality with most of these folks: Their way is bad, but in order to beat them, we have to do things their way, forever!

  • livelikearefugee||

    That, in effect, is what protectionism says. It's what all Trump's trade bluster is all about.

  • Jerryskids||

    Trump's goals are to pressure other countries into freer trade agreements using the untapped economic and military-welfare leverage of the US.

    You got a citation for that? Because I've heard any number of people on any number of issues claiming to know the strategic reasons behind Trump's actions ("negotiating!") without any indication from Trump that that's his purpose. Some people might think it's just wishful thinking on your part to assume there must be some good reason behind Trump's bizarre antics, some sort of Chauncey Gardiner-ish blank slate thing going on. Or simple pareidolia.

  • Agammamon||

    HIs goals? His goals are more power. His goals are to 'fix' something that isn't a problem in the first place. His goals come from not understanding the meaning of an accounting identity.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well, based on the rules, we now know we have a REAL libertarian in our midst.

  • Kongming||

    Heh, fair enough I was a bit holier-than-thou. But with that said, is free trade a libertarian position or not?

  • BYODB||

    Free does not, and never has, existed. It's rather a discussion on degrees of freedom.

    The reason should be obvious: other countries exist.

  • Kongming||

    So the argument is that, since we do not currently have free trade, we should thus go as far in the other direction as possible? That's asinine. It would be like me saying "well I'm a bit overweight now, sonthe logical course of action is to give up exercise entirely and eat three chocolate cakes per day."

  • BYODB||

    No, the argument is that free trade is an impossible goal. That has nothing to do with pursuing it necessarily, merely that viewing things in terms of absolute free trade is a fools errand and is ultimately disingenuous.

    Free trade is a two way street that you can't even pretend to pursue unilaterally and, if you do, there are harms that get hand waved away by plenty of people who are willingly blind to the impossible nature of their end-goal.

  • TLBD||

    "Free trade is a two way street that you can't even pretend to pursue unilaterally"

    I've seen many libertarians here try to make that argument. Fact is, if the most efficient people are not creating the goods or services, you may pay a little less in the very short term, but in the long term we as a country, and humanity as a whole suffers, or at least do not progress to our potential.

  • Agammamon||

    Free trade is not a two-way street.

    if you do, there are harms that get hand waved away by plenty of people who are willingly blind to the impossible nature of their end-goal.

    You handwave away the harms caused to ordinary people by protectionist policies.

  • BYODB||


    You handwave away the harms caused to ordinary people by protectionist policies.


    No, I don't. I'm not a purist, unlike many here. I'm well aware of the harms which are, primarily, cost increases on what consumers buy. That's just the most obvious.

    There are harms on both sides of the equation, but pursuing completely free trade by yourself means that you're going to hamstring domestic labor and production. Which, of course, is a moot point since completely free trade is an impossibility in the first place as is the probability that America would shift away from labor protection and wage controls any time soon.

  • TLBD||

    No, the argument is that economically punishing other countries for their trade stances is the only realistic way to further free trade.

    Most leaders use protectionism because they personally benefit from it. Trump is using it as a weapon to bash them over the heads with, to strategically pressure them into the realization that trading freely with the US and contributing to defense is MUCH more preferable than the US being an economic enemy.

  • Agammamon||

    No, the argument is that economically punishing other countries for their trade stances is the only realistic way to further free trade.

    And its a stupid argument that completely misunderstands what free trade is and, frankly, seems like a cover. Something people deliberately misunderstand to be able to argue a political point.

  • Shirley Knott||

    And there is no evidence it works.

  • TLBD||

    From what I said above:

    I've seen many libertarians here try to make that argument. Fact is, if the most efficient people are not creating the goods or services, you may pay a little less in the very short term, but in the long term we as a country, and humanity as a whole suffers, or at least do not progress to our potential.

    Unilateral free trade is like unilateral pacifism. You get to be holier than thou (which seems to be the driving force of many libertarian personalities here), but you may also be crushed.

  • Shirley Knott||

    There is zero actual factual evidence to back that view.
    Consider Britain eliminating the Corn Laws.
    Consider Singapore and Hong Kong.

    The analogy to pacifism simply does not hold water.

  • BYODB||

    *free trade, that is

  • TLBD||

    Of course it is.

    Your problem is that you don't understand the position some libertarians are taking on this site.

    Some of us scoff at the "sky is falling" rhetoric and understand that all Trump is asking of other countries is to trade more freely, or "fairly" as he says. I get that his methods are scary to people who rightly understand that tariffs are detrimental to economies.

  • ||

    Trump is "asking" in the same way that the IRS "asks" for my money every April.

  • TLBD||

    You should think about that analogy long and hard.

  • ||

    Astonishing point, and well argued.

    I stand rebuffed.

  • TLBD||

    I just look for any opportunity to use the phrase "long and hard".

  • Curly4||

    Trump has no legal power over these other nations (as the IRS has the power to force you to send them money) to force them to sell to the US or buy US products. It is only as they see that it is better for them to agree with the US can he get a new trade agreement. They could, if it is better for them, to just cut the US out of any trade agreement. It that is the case then Trump will not make any headway with them. But so far that is not the case.

  • Agammamon||

    Why do we care if other countries trade more freely or fairly? And why is it important enough to screw over millions of Americans to achieve?

  • TLBD||

    Why should you care if the most efficient method of production is forced out of the market by foreign government actors?

    Tough question.

  • Shirley Knott||

    How does that happen, with real world factual examples, please?
    What precisely do you mean by 'most efficient'?
    The goal of production is consumption, not efficiency per se.
    Time and circumstances and, most of all, human creativity, alter efficiency constantly. Intra-nationally as well as internationally. The most efficient producer of buggy whips, or pyramids, is kind of meaningless.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    ^ This is an economically illiterate comment.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Sorry - my post above was for TLBD.

  • Curly4||

    I will try to explain this as I would to a first grader. If countries tread freely and fairly that would give the US a chance to do more trade with these countries and they withe the US. But if the other nation has tariffs or other trade barriers against US products for the US to trade with nation the US has to overcome that tariff or trade barrier. That means that the US can sell less in that country than that country can sell in the US or that the US manufacture makes less on each item sold to them while they can sell more items and make more per item sold in the US.
    I hope this is simple enough for you to understand.

  • Happy Chandler||

    I'm not sure how taxing Americans is a good solution to trade. We could tariff everything. We would be all poorer. If other countries want to subsidize exports, why shouldn't we just allow it? It's a sale for us! They are transferring dollars from their government to our people. Use those savings to compensate people whose industries are disrupted.

  • Shirley Knott||

    But the US is not monolithic.
    It does not trade.
    Any tariff imposed by a nation will distort the economic activities of its citizens away from comparative advantage in areas not protected by tariffs.
    It weakens them, it does not strengthen them.

    Spend some time over at Cafe Hayek. Don Boudreaux has dealt with this nonsensical argument repeatedly.

    Further, there is zero solid historical evidence that competing on tariffs leads countries to abandon tariffs. Or to lower them in a way that counts as a 'win'.
    Feel free to provide cites to evidence to the contrary.

  • Curly4||

    Yet when the congress critters and pundits in this country are screaming at Trump "Don't push our trading partners" are giving the nations that Trump to change to a more free trade reason not to compromise with Trump. Thus they are undercutting Trump's ability to get a compromise. Thus they are hurting US's chances of a new agreement.

  • Curly4||

    I can see the democrats claiming that the "sky is falling" to force Trump out of office no later than the next presidential election. What I cannot is why the republicans doing the same thing as the democrats are doing crying "the sky is falling"? That is unless that the republicans would rather have a democrat controlled by democrats which would put them back in the minority of government again?

  • Happy Chandler||

    They don't want the economy tanking and bringing their party down with it.

    Republicans have gotten the most votes in only one of the past seven presidential elections. It will probably be a while before they can do it again, and it will be difficult to get lucky with the electoral college. They don't want to waste their advantage on something that doesn't funnel cash to rich people.

  • MikeP2||

    It would be fair to ask why Amash even wants to be a congress-critter, when his 'report card' on anything beyond voting is sub-par. Looks like he ranks last in Michigan for bills co-sponsored, and in the bottom range for every other measure except voting.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Those are all good things, dumdum.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Wrong. Congresspersons are hired to go to Washington DC and write laws. If they're not writing laws, they're not doing their jobs.

  • BYODB||

    If only it was legal to leave the post vacant, maybe we'd be better off.

    "None of the above!"

    - Monty Brewster, aka Richard Pryor

  • Curly4||

    The US would be better off if they did not write stupid laws. So if they write stupid laws then they are still not doing their job.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    I propose several constitutional amendments. First, all federal laws sunset after X years. Second, the number of federal laws is restricted to some reasonable number tbd. When that limit is reached any new law requires repeal of one current. Third, and most important, no more cutie-pie names and/or anagrams for laws. It should be clear how, when and where they are trying to fuck us right up front.

  • Agammamon||

    Looks like he ranks last in Michigan for bills co-sponsored . . .

    It can be measured, therefore we must measure it.

    We measured it, therefore it must be a metric we will judge your success by.

  • Curly4||

    Has his estate grown or shrunk since he has been in office?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

  • Curly4||

    What Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) and other opponents of Trump's tariffs don't want tariffs he wants equality in the trade between nations. By these like Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) opposing Trump and even introducing legislation to over rule Trump in his endeavor is addint these nations that is taking advantage of the US and the weak negotiators that previous agreed to this un-equity. One might even say that they are putting a knife into the US's back. Back Trump now and if he fails then he can take the fall but if our own people causes Trump to fail they are agents of these foreign nations and should be treated as such.

  • Calidissident||

    Go fuck yourself. Opposing Trump's idiotic tariffs, or even just the notion that the president should have the power to unilaterally raise tariffs, does make you a traitor to the country. It is astounding how many people here endorse economically nationalist arguments that were universally derided here 5-10 years ago when pushed by the populist left.

    I'll once again also point out that the US has tariffs and barriers that are similar in size and scope to most of our trading partners whom Trump is attacking for their barriers. If Trump was sincerely interested in promoting free trade, he would focus on negotiating the mutual lowering or eliminating of barriers, not adding new ones to try the impossible task of "winning" a trade war.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Those ideas were shown to be nonsense more than 200 years ago. Bastiat, Smith, Ricardo, et al.
    Mercantilism is a primitive superstition that still has a death-grip on the minds and hearts of slavers everywhere.

  • ace_m82||

    The way to ensure that "the US" isn't "taken advantage of", your plan is to tax US citizens more. Ergo, your solution to "US weakness" is to take more rights from US citizens.

    As kindly as I can put this: Go pound sand!

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Hasn't Trump offered zero tariff free trade right up front in every case? Haven't our trading partners rejected that option in every case? I'd prefer to shame them all and eliminate all US tariffs. We would suffer the consequences, reap the rewards and show them all how it's done. Sadly, not in my lifetime.

  • Happy Chandler||

    What are the chances of getting that passed through Congress? Other countries ignored it because they knew he couldn't deliver.

  • Shirley Knott||

    So he fails to eliminate those he could, and instead doubles down on them?
    Brilliant.

  • Happy Chandler||

    Tax everybody. Own the libs!

  • Eggman||

    "Republicans! ..Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of Libertarianism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."

    --Walter Sobchak

  • wearingit||

    Big talk from a spineless man who voted for "tax reform" in the form of a 1.5 trillion dollar bag of additional debt.

  • buybuydandavis||

    " The White House claimed this measure was a response to tariffs imposed by China on American goods, though China's tariffs were retaliation for an earlier round of Trump tariffs. "

    The Narrative rolls on.

    Entirely missing is the context in which all the recent tariffs exist: China has higher tariffs and trade barriers than the US does.

    It's totally reasonable, just, and prudent for the US to demand reciprocal levels of trade barriers.

    America First.

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    Learn how to get a free xbox live gold 1 month membership code. It's super simple and only takes three easy steps.
    https://freexboxlivecode.net/
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