President Obama’s Trade War on the Poor

A Wall Street Journal story yesterday reports the rising level of poverty in America caused by the steep and lingering recession. As I point out in a Washington Times column that also ran yesterday, one unintended consequence of President Obama’s trade policies so far has been to make the growing number of poor even poorer.

As I explained in the “Economic Watch” column:

America’s highest remaining trade barriers are aimed at products mostly grown and made by poor people abroad and disproportionately consumed by poor people at home. While industrial goods and luxury products typically enter under low or zero tariffs, the U.S. government imposes duties of 30 percent or more on food and lower-end clothing and shoes - staple goods that loom large in the budgets of poor families.

To win favor with organized labor and other opponents of trade liberalization, Mr. Obama has either defended or actually raised barriers on precisely those products of most interest to poor households. …

The $25 billion in revenue raised each year from import duties represent by far the most regressive tax the federal government imposes. Yet the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have refused to move forward with trade agreements that would lower trade taxes that fall most heavily on the poor. By supporting the farm bill, but not new trade agreements, the president has embraced the status quo rather than change.

Read the full article.