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Debate: Are tariffs a good way to boost domestic economy?

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Debate: Are tariffs a good way to boost domestic economy?


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Round 1

Pro: The tariffs proposed by President Trump are the best economic idea that he has proposed so far. In trying to revitalize American production, President Trump has introduced his tax overhaul —which only threatens to grow the already staggering national debt—and has shown interest in putting legislative might behind America’s shrinking fossil fuel industry at a time when even Saudia Arabia is reading the writing on the walls and switching to fossil fuels. One resource that our country does have and that isn’t going anywhere in terms of the global market is our metals. Making those metals even more valuable by preventing countries like China from selling at basement prices may be exactly the push that domestic producers need to start producing with domestic resources and making our economy more sustainable. For years there has been a push to buy American-made products, but that only goes so far when those products are made from foreign materials.

Con: Using tariffs to boost the economy is a dangerous game to play. The current trade war between the US and China is the perfect example. In response to Trump’s tariff plan, they have declared plans for tariffs on American goods as well. If this continues, we may find ourselves in an economical standoff, leaving several industries in the lurch simply because of an attempt to protect domestic producers. And, if we start on the road to tariffs, we may soon find the resources and products available to us far more limited. Different areas have different resources, ideas, and skills. It would be like “brain drain,” but on a much vaster scale. Even if there was no standoff, it would increase prices. For example, steel tariffs would cause prices to rise, making any steel-made product to rise in cost as well. And because there is no foreign market, it is much easier for industries to bump up their prices even further for more profit because there is less competition.

Round 2

Pro: Almost all of these arguments against tariffs presuppose that the tariffs don’t work, and all of the others rely on all of our trade being with China. Tariffs only make products more expensive if American producers continue to use foreign materials. The whole idea of a tariff is to incentivize using domestic products, and if that happens then the cost will level out. In the short term, products may be notably more expensive, but as the domestic market for American-produced materials grows these materials are likely to become cheaper via the laws of supply and demand. Further, suggesting that China’s reactionary tariffs on American goods will cripple the economy relies on the belief that those goods are only valuable in China. China is a significant trade partner, but they aren’t the only market for the items that they are placing tariffs on. In deliberately placing tariffs on America’s largest exports to China, they have placed tariffs on the items with the greatest international demand. Just like it may take some time for America’s metals-producers to develop the infrastructure to meet rising needs it may take some time for America to find markets for the goods that China placed tariffs on, but almost all of those goods were foods, and there is always a demand for food.

Con: While the concept of tariffs may be well intentioned, there are problems with them that aren’t so obvious. For example, as mentioned earlier, the extra cost for these resources means a hike in price as well. This means that consumers must pay more for these items. Maybe this helps the economy, maybe not. If the consumers must pay more for this product, they have less funds to pay for other items. This may mean other industries are left in the lurch if it comes down to a decision about which product is deemed most necessary to buy. And can we really, with all the issues regarding minimum wage and union strikes, believe that people can continue to simply spend and spend? No. Most of us don’t have much disposable income, and a hike in prices means even less. So not only do tariffs present a potential economic standoff between countries, it may mean unintentionally abandoning some products, domestic or no, in favor of the one directly affected by the tariff. If it gets bad, we may even lose entire industries, taking with them countless jobs. How, exactly, does that help our economy?

Pro side debated by Jon Jaehnig

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Debate: Are tariffs a good way to boost domestic economy?