Sunday, March 10, 2002

Does Anyone Defend the Bush Administration on Steel?

Yes. His name is Paul Magnusson and he lays out the case for Bush's decision on steel tariffs in the new issue (subscription required) of Business Week. To the text we go:

It was a bold but seemingly contradictory move. A tax increase on imports from a President who promised that taxes would be raised only "over my dead body." A protectionist move from a Republican who claims to believe in the free market. An inflationary action that can only hurt U.S. exporters struggling against a strong dollar. And a diplomatically risky gambit when America is trying to keep her allies in the war on terror in line.

Certainly, politics played a role in the decision: Getting an edge for Republicans in steel states is important for the midterm elections and beyond. Yet, despite the risks and besides the politics, the White House did the right thing. After all, economic abstractions such as free trade have to be mixed with practical politics to create a realistic trade policy. And Bush's ultimate goal is laudable--persuading the rest of the world to do away with a century of government intervention in steel production. For that, he'll have to get all steel-producing nations back to the bargaining table for some no-nonsense talks. The tariffs will demand the attention of countries balking at serious capacity-reduction.