Truth, Lies - and Both

You're not a liar if you're telling the truth from a different perspective.

While we're all in favor of confronting the lies of the Left at every opportunity, and also the lies of poseurs like Marco Rubio who claim to be on the Right but govern oppositely, it's a bit unsettling to hear staunch conservatives derided as liars by others on the same side of the aisle.

What's even more disconcerting is to hear charges of lying and violent disagreement, when both sides are in fact correct.

This was the surreal situation in the most recent Republican debate, when Donald Trump and Ted Cruz got in a slugfest over Mr. Trump's signature issue, the destructive effects of free trade:

TRUMP: ...Trade deals are absolutely killing our country. The devaluations of their currencies by China and Japan and many, many other countries, and we don't do it because we don't play the game. And the only way we're going to be able to do it is we're going to have to do taxes unless they behave.

If you don't tax certain products coming into this country from certain countries that are taking advantage of the United States and laughing at our stupidity, we're going to continue to lose businesses and we're going to continue to lose jobs...

CRUZ: Well, Donald is right, for example, he was just talking about international trade. He's right about the problems. But his solutions don't work. So, for example, his solution on international trade, he proposed earlier a 45 percent tariff on foreign goods.

Now he backed away from that immediately and he may come back with a different number tonight. I don't know where he'll be tonight. But I'll tell you what happens. You know, we've seen prior presidential candidates who proposed massive tariffs, you know, Smoot- Hawley led to the Great Depression.

And the effect of a 45 percent tariff would be when you go to the store, when you go to Walmart, when you are shopping for your kids, the prices you pay go up 45 percent.  But not only that, when you put those in place, because a tariff is a tax on you, the American people, but the response of that is that the countries we trade with put in their own tariffs.

Free Trade? Fair Trade? No Deal?

It is impossible to argue with Donald Trump's contention that factories formerly full of well-paying jobs have been moving out of the country.  Just this last week, and infamous video showed yet another roomful of American workers being told that their employer was moving to Mexico and leaving them behind.

Obviously, if we didn't allow Mexican air-conditioners to infest our fair shores, this wouldn't have happened.  Equally obviously, we still want air conditioners, so the unfortunate employees would still have their jobs if Mexican products weren't allowed in.

The Donald isn't suggesting that we should go that far, but he's floated the idea of 45% tariffs.  This wouldn't ban imports by any means, but would certainly put a dent in them.

Would that create American jobs?  Interestingly, our Founding Fathers agreed with Mr. Trump:

Protectionism’s first American theorist was Alexander Hamilton—the man on the $10 bill, the first Treasury Secretary, and America’s first technocrat. As aide-de-camp to General Washington during the Revolution, he had seen the U.S. nearly lose due to its lack of capacity to manufacture weapons.  (France rescued us with 80,000 muskets and other war materiel.) He worried that Britain’s lead in manufacturing would remain entrenched, condemning the United States to being a producer of agricultural products and raw materials. In modern terms, a banana republic. As he put it in 1791:

The superiority antecedently enjoyed by nations who have preoccupied and perfected a branch of industry, constitutes a more formidable obstacle than either of those which have been mentioned, to the introduction of the same branch into a country in which it did not before exist. To maintain, between the recent establishments of one country, and the long-matured establishments of another country, a competition upon equal terms, both as to quality and price, is, in most cases, impracticable. The disparity, in the one, or in the other, or in both, must necessarily be so considerable, as to forbid a successful rivalship, without the extraordinary aid and protection of government.

Indeed, the Constitution specifically gives Congress the authority to regulate foreign trade, and in the original design of how our Federal government was to be financed, it was almost entirely by tariffs and excise taxes with no other source of government income.  That is why it was necessary to amend the Constitution in 1913 for the federal government to be permitted to impose an income tax.  The express intention of the Founders' design for funding government through import taxes was to encourage the growth of American manufacturing and industry.

This strong belief in protectionism also motivated Lincoln, who said:

Give us a protective tariff, and we will have the greatest nation on earth.

He did just that - and sure enough, that was the result.

The point isn't that we don't want to trade with other nations - we do.  The point isn't even that we only want to trade from a position of overwhelming advantage, though that's nice when it's possible.

The problem is that "trade," by definition, means stuff moving in both directions.  If all we're doing is shipping money over and not shipping them anything we actually produce, it's neither free nor fair.

But Ted Cruz is equally correct when he points out that a 45% tariff will raise the cost of virtually everything normal Americans buy.  Take Wal-Mart - practically everything sold there comes from China.  What happens the day after Mr. Trump's tariff is passed and all the prices in Wal-Mart jump up by nearly half?

Mr. Trump's argument is that this massive price rise will make it economical for American factories to reopen and make things here like we used to.  How long is that going to take?  Most of our old factories were torn down long ago, and we have very few experienced manufacturing workers left.

Then there's the frustrations of modern environmental regulations which didn't exist in the glory days of the Great Arsenal of Democracy.  It takes years and years to get even the cleanest of factories approved and built, and for all that time we'd be stuck paying 50% more for everything we buy.  How could that not cripple the economy?

Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz seemed to be in profound disagreement, but that was an illusion.  They were both completely right, there were no lies involved, and any successful trade policy needs to address both of their points.

That's the truth!  They are in vehement agreement!  Now they just need to calm down and realize that, in a more civil tone of voice.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

And you'll notice that Cruz does not call his opponents liars. He never has, that I'm aware of.

As you quoted, he said:

"[Trrump]'s right about the problems. But his solutions don't work"

That's how he always phrases it: what they say won't work. Or it's not constitutional.

Rubio and Trump were the ones yelling liar, liar, not Cruz.

But yeah I agree in general. The liar, liar stuff is absurd and it needs to stop. If someone does lie, that should be pointed out but in a dignified way.

March 18, 2016 9:18 AM
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