George Will calls out the hypocrites at Whirlpool and warns Americans to reject their – and similar – cronyist pleas for
punitive tariffs on imported home appliances punitive taxes on Americans who choose to buy imported home appliances. Here’s Will’s opening paragraph:
A household appliance will be the next stepping-stone on America’s path to restored greatness. The government is poised to punish many Americans, in the name of protecting a few of them, because, in the government’s opinion, too many of them are choosing to buy foreign-made washing machines for no better reason than that the buyers think they are better. If you are wondering why the government is squandering its dwindling prestige by having opinions about such things, you have not been paying attention to Whirlpool’s demonstration that it is more adept at manipulating Washington than it is at making washing machines.
If a foreign country is protectionist, the government of your own country only compounds your problems by adopting protectionism too. As economist Joan Robinson suggested in her Essays in the Theory of Employment (1947), protectionist retaliation looks like the decision “to dump rocks into our harbors because other nations have rocky coasts.” One’s own government’s trade policy should not depend on the restrictions that foreign countries impose on their own citizens.
But Delta, American and United, along with their unions, have argued that the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are providing unfair subsidies, and that their state-run carriers should have their U.S. routes frozen.
This is ridiculous. As my colleague Gary Leff, the author of the famous blog “View from the Wing,” tells me, “U.S. airline employment is at a long term peak. And Delta has no problem taking advantage of subsidies — fuel tax breaks in Georgia, subsidies for its oil refinery in Pennsylvania, and having moved pension obligations onto the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in bankruptcy.
“Delta even shares revenue on routes across the Atlantic with Alitalia, which had been subsidized by Etihad. Delta owns a stake in the most subsidized Chinese airline, China Eastern.”
“The issue,” he adds, “isn’t free markets versus subsidies but ‘subsidies for me but not for thee’ while lobbying the federal government to pick the pockets of American consumers despite U.S. airlines earning nearly half the world’s commercial aviation profits.”