Trump's Illegitimate Use Of National Security For His Tariffs Does Not Bode Well For The Future
It has been noted by Ross and others supportive of Trump’s actions that George W. Bush also instituted steel tariffs back in 2002, as though that provides some precedent for Trump’s actions. Besides ignoring the fact that those steel tariffs were a failure that cost American jobs and were soon rescinded, Ross and others also fail to note that Bush used his power under Section 201 of the Trade Adjustment Act which allowed for temporary tariffs as an anti-dumping measure and also required a sign-off from the US International Trade Commission. The tariffs were specifically not imposed under the national security rationale despite the fact that the US was at that time engaged in a war in Afghanistan.
Perhaps I am just overly sensitive to the abuses of the Trump administration and the Republican party of today. But, as the President’s current obsession with his unconstrained pardon power clearly shows, Trump’s instinct is to exploit to the extreme the areas where his power is virtually unlimited. Obviously, the fear now is that Trump will see the success of this essentially bogus national security argument and look for other areas to exploit that power which may be far beyond his trade policies. And the fact that Trump’s essentially fraudulent use of his national security power has largely flown under the radar in the tariff issue will allow him to interpret that as an acceptable option that will create little pushback. And that does not bode well for our democracy in the near future.
And one last point. This story also highlights how the Trump administration has thoroughly corrupted the independence of our federal agencies. The Council of Economic Adviser’s study that shows these tariffs will actually cost American jobs will not be released because it counters Trump policy. But the Commerce Department will dutifully create a report showing a national security threat to the US steel and aluminum industry that everyone, even members of Trump’s own administration, knows full well is patently absurd and backed up by no factual data at all.