≡ Menu

The Byrd is at least wounded

The Washington Post (rr) reports that the Senate has voted to kill the Byrd Amendment:

The Senate action, which came as part of a broader budget bill that passed with Vice President Cheney’s tie-breaking vote, would phase out the Byrd amendment, a five-year-old measure especially popular with lawmakers from industrial states heavily affected by foreign competition. The House has already voted to repeal the amendment, named for Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), in nearly identical legislation.

Yes, it would be especially popular with lawmakers from industrial states:

According to the Byrd amendment, whenever the government finds U.S. companies to be disadvantaged by the dumping of imported goods at unfairly low prices, the duties collected on those goods can go to the companies rather than to the Treasury.

Don’t you love that phrase, “disadvantaged by the dumping of imported goods at unfairly low prices”? Of course if you’re a domestic producer, all low prices charged by foreign competitors are unfairly low. And of course all low prices put domestic producers at a disadvantage. The problem with anti-dumping low is the definition of “unfair.” The way that it is actually defined is comically arbitrary and creates endless opportunities for domestic firms to enter the anti-dumping lottery in hopes of forcing higher prices on competitors. What the Byrd amendment does is doubly reward that lottery effort. Not only does anti-dumping law force foreign prices higher but it channels the fines to the domestic firms.

You can’t have everything:

The repeal would be delayed for two years, giving some U.S. lumber firms and other companies the chance to continue receiving substantial sums under the amendment. That compromise was necessary to secure yesterday’s vote.

Taking time to phase something in is generally a good idea to allow people time to react to the new rules. But I wonder if this repeal will be repealed two years from now.