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Who’s “Anti-American”?

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Criticizing your opposition to his proposal to impose a carbon tax on Chinese imports, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) writes that he has “never read a more pro-China, pro-Russia, anti-American editorial in the Journal than the one regarding my Foreign Pollution Fee Act” (Letters, November 25). With these words the senator reveals that his real purpose isn’t the respectable one of protecting Americans from environmental harm but, instead, the despicable one of protecting politically powerful producers from foreign competition. Were he genuinely motivated to protect the environment, he’d forthrightly acknowledge that his legislation would harm large numbers of Americans – American consumers who buy goods from China, and American producers who purchase inputs made in China. He’d then argue that the environmental benefits of his legislation would outweigh these harms. Reasonable people could then have an honest and productive debate over the merits of his proposed measure.

But Sen. Cassidy offers no such acknowledgment and argument. Instead, he resorts to name-calling. By focusing on the particular American jobs that his proposal would protect – and by ignoring the American jobs that his proposal would destroy, as well as the consumer harm that his proposal would inflict – he makes clear that his real purpose is rank protectionism. And because American protectionism always harms far more Americans than it helps, if anyone on this matter deserves to be called “anti-American,” it is Sen. Cassidy and not you.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030