Vox headline: “An NYT op-ed argued for making China poorer to make Americans richer. That’s appalling.”
Translation: a New York Times op-ed writer argued that competition from cheap labor hurts some American workers and thinks imposing tariffs might be a good response.
The Vox piece itself is a mish-mash of assertions. For example, it is true that most of the particular poverty in the South has nothing to do with foreign competition. But some of it does, as the author also admits. It is also true that tariffs impose deadweight costs. But the study on tire tariffs cited in the piece contains no error bars. (The methodology itself is also a little weird, assuming for example that tire manufacturers spend none of their income save wages, but leave that be.) The deadweight costs are quite likely negligible. And anyway, in this case, the point of tariffs would be to affect the income distribution inside the United States.
And then there is the moralization. It is true that imposing tariffs on foreign goods makes foreign exporters poorer. Yes. True. That is decent argument in favor of free trade. It is, in fact, an argument that I agree with. But saying that it is “appalling” to want to impose some marginal costs on the Chinese export sector to gain some marginal benefits for lower-income American workers is an attempt to shut down debate by painting any restraints on trade as immoral.
Well, now. If you are going to that, I want evidence about the distribution of the impact of U.S. tariffs on Chinese workers and employers. Come on now, if you are going to call something appalling, then you really have to show us the money.