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Monstrous Modern Mercantilism

In his most recent column, George Will attacks “the radiating mischief of protectionism.”  Some slices:

What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive ourselves into believing that corporate welfare can be seemly.


Bombardier is indeed subsidized to a fare-thee-well. The Canadian government subsidizes the Montreal-based company, as does the province of Quebec. But the U.S. government essentially provides Boeing with its own financial institution: The company is by far the largest beneficiary of what is known as “Boeing’s Bank” — the misbegotten Export-Import Bank. It provides cheap loans to Boeing’s overseas customers, lowering the real prices they pay. In 2014, 68 percent of the bank’s long-term loan guarantees — its primary business — was on Boeing’s behalf. Boeing also benefits from government contracts — 23 percent of its 2016 revenue; the Defense Department is its largest customer — and from state governments’ incentives worth billions (e.g., $8.7 billion from Washington state).

Nevertheless, the Commerce Department, succoring Boeing with compassionate conservatism, imposed an astonishing 219.63 percent tariff on imports of Bombardier’s C Series, supposedly to compensate for subsidies the company receives, and another 79.82 percent as punishment for not charging Delta, a U.S. airline, more. This 299.45 percent duty — Boeing had suggested 160 percent — would quadruple the planes’ price, effectively closing the U.S. market to them, thereby threatening Bombardier’s survival.

DBx: Do read the entire column.

In this, the 21st century, 17th-century mercantilism – a toxic mix of economic ignorance, grotesque hypocrisy, and cronyism – remains alive and well and supported by partisans left and right.