≡ Menu

Phil Gramm and I Respond to Robert Lighthizer

In the print edition of tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal, Phil Gramm and I respond to Robert Lighthizer’s criticisms of our earlier op-ed:

In his recent letter (Jan. 31), Robert Lighthizer responds to our op-ed “The High Cost of the Trump-Biden Tariffs” (Jan. 18). Lacking data to support his protectionist position, Mr. Lighthizer gets political by playing the China card, touting protectionism’s purported benefits for national security.

When President Trump imposed tariffs to close the “washing-machine gap” at a cost of $815,000 per job saved, and when his steel tariffs protected us from the national security risk of importing steel from Canada and Mexico at a cost of more than $900,00 per job saved, how was national security served? Surely, if we had taken the resources that the economy lost from protectionism and spent it on national defense we would have dramatically enhanced the nation’s security.

Further, while the bulk of Chinese imports are found at Walmart, Target, Costco and Amazon—raising Americans’ purchasing power—trade with China can also strengthen our national security if it supplies us with component parts that improve our productivity. America’s secret to success is the freedom to find efficiencies wherever we can and then to use the savings to build a more prosperous economy and stronger military. If we have a dispute with Elon Musk, we don’t go out and tear down the Starlink dish on our house and pay twice as much for inferior internet service to spite him. That’s called cutting off your nose to spite your face.

As Mr. Lighthizer must be painfully aware, evidence continues to mount that Trump-Biden protectionism isn’t benefiting the people they claim to be helping. A recent study by the authors of the famous “China Shock” paper finds that “the trade-war has not to date provided economic help to the U.S. heartland: import tariffs on foreign goods neither raised nor lowered U.S. employment in newly-protected sectors; retaliatory tariffs had clear negative employment impacts, primarily in agriculture.”

Phil Gramm and Prof. Donald Boudreaux

AEI and George Mason University
Helotes, Texas, and Fairfax, Va.
Mr. Gramm was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.


And don’t miss the second letter, from Bob Alexander.