Biden’s tariffs to backfire on US consumers
Published: Jun 02, 2024 08:03 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Five years ago Joe Biden was running to unseat then American President Donald Trump and saw fit to justly lambast Trump's tariffs on Chinese products. After beating Trump, Biden decided to keep those same tariffs in place.
Now, running for a second term, Biden has called for even more tariffs against Chinese products, this time largely in the electronic and environmental sectors, to protect Western companies, now lagging far behind in both production and quality. 
Biden's election-year policy gambit is derivative of Trump's cynical politics based on prejudice and reveals an utter misapprehension of both economics as well as what is important to American workers and voters. The US eagerly welcomed China into the global economy late in the 20th century, sharing our technology and giving them access to our consumers because our companies wanted access to their market and labor force. 
We let American manufacturers move to China to produce goods more cheaply in order to increase their profits when they sold their products back to our population, now stripped of jobs. China never "stole" our jobs - American companies and the government willingly sold off US jobs.
Still, Biden is spouting the same old lies about China - They are "cheating" and "can't be trusted." It just so happens that these deceitful characterizations of the Chinese government fit longstanding xenophobic tropes about Asian people spread by American politicians for centuries. 
Now we're agonizing over the fact that China leads the way in green energy products including making electric vehicles that experts say are far superior to those made by American companies and cheaper, being sold at half to a fifth of the cost. If Biden cared about the climate, he might welcome such innovation and help those products reach American consumers the way he and other US politicians eased the flow of cheap petrol products to our shores across the Pacific.

Then again, if Biden cared about the environment, he would not have increased oil drilling to historic levels in the past three years. The US has lagged far behind China in electronic technology not because the People's Republic "cheated" but because our government simply does not prioritize industry in the same way. If we are truly anxious about our standing as a producer of electronics we could nationalize or at least heavily subsidize the appropriate industries instead of waging economic warfare on countries like China who do value production.

Biden's tariffs don't just expand on the Trump ones he left in place after campaigning against them, they are in direct contradiction to a new tax credit he's offering American consumers who purchase electric vehicles. Beyond being another example of his assault on the environment, Biden's tariffs are simply denying Americans superior products at a lower cost.
The tariffs don't protect American consumers or workers. They are simply unfair and unwise favors to billion-dollar corporations and donors at our expense.
We shouldn't care where superior technology comes from. Still, even within the framework of national chauvinism there's little reason to believe that making it harder for American consumers to buy superior Chinese products will spur innovation in our own companies. These tariffs remove the vaunted competition that capitalists claim is instrumental to innovation and they do not invest more capital in research and development for electronics. 
Simply put, these tariffs won't "work" even on their own terms, so why is the US imposing them?
The reason is that people like Biden and Trump believe that it is good politics in America to vilify Asians and China in particular. We are a racist, Sinophobic country that has long used propaganda to instill fear and loathing against Asian people and nations. During times of economic strife, we are taught to fear Asian technology, Asian economic growth and Asian workers. We are even taught to blame them for epidemics that started in Europe which they handled much better than we have. 
Biden's tariffs and rhetoric in support of them are racist and fit into the tired old mold that characterizes China as "cheating" and a uniquely untrustworthy entity. Politicians supporting these tariffs are hoping to make their corporate overloads happy and that their xenophobia will yield short-term approval from voters.
The former may be accomplished, but there's evidence to suggest the latter will not. Americans are already fed up with the cost of living, and making better, cheaper products harder to obtain will likely not sit well with us.
As it stands 9 in 10 Americans are worried about the current cost of living. Over 60 percent of Americans are concerned about the cost of necessities, and 87 percent of us are concerned about inflation and price increases in particular.

Only 38 percent of Americans rate the economy as good under Biden. Only 17 percent of us believe that Biden's policies will make prices go down. Nearly 60 percent of us report believing that the economy is worsening because of the Biden administration's mismanagement.
Americans don't like the way things are going, and we blame Biden. We don't have confidence that his policies will improve this situation, and these new tariffs are unlikely to change any of that. 

The author is a Chicago-based columnist covering US politics & culture. He is also a university English & critical journalism instructor. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn