By Robert Wallace
With the 9/12 rally and the “You lie!” controversy there’s been so much going on in Washington that you might have missed the fact that President Obama has decided to risk starting a serious trade war with China as a favor to labor unions.
If you did miss it, that’s OK with Obama. The move to impose stiff tariffs (35%!) on Chinese tires imported to the United States was announced at after 9pm last Friday evening. Which tells you that Obama thinks it’s bad news, but not quite as embarrassing as Van Jones resigning. And yet, as it turns out, this move wasn’t just a random thank-you note to the unions. It was a desperate bid by Obama to garner more support for his flailing healthcare effort. As The Economist reports:
Simon Evenett, a trade economist at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, argues that Mr Obama’s decision is a clear affirmation of the power of American labour unions in shaping its trade policy. It appears that Mr Obama is desperate to shore-up support from unions and the left of the Democratic Party for health-care reform—his most pressing domestic concern—and is prepared to risk repercussions on trade.
This has to make you ask: what is President Obama’s motivation here? Fixing healthcare is supposed to be for the good of the American people, right? And yet a trade war with China in the middle of a serious recession isn’t good for anybody. The Economist continues:
…heightened economic tensions between America and China are a heavy price to pay [for increased support for Obama's healthcare initiative]. Mr Prasad says that “an escalating trade war between these two large economies has the potential to disrupt the world trading system”.
This means Obama is not only willing to shoot the American economic recovery in the foot for the sake of his healthcare reform, but he’s also willing to cast aside his image as an internationalist. He promised to make America best buddies with all our old allies again, but I promise you that no one is going to take kindly to an American-started trade-war dragging down or even postponing the global recovery effort.
More important than the question “How does Obama rationalize this?” is the question of how his supporters rationalize it. I suppose if you really believe in Obama you could believe that he needs to pass healthcare in order to gain the momentum to pass anything else in his agenda. So you could see healthcare as an all-or-nothing gambit. If it goes down, so does everything.
The problem with that view, in my mind, is that an Obama supporter who believes that isn’t really pinning all their hopes on healthcare. They are pinning all their hopes on Obama personally. Is tying the fate of this country to the fate of any one particular leader in line with our traditions? No, it’s not.
On top of everything else, that is why this is going to be yet another misstep by Obama that ends up driving the wedge between himself and the mainstream America even deeper. The committed Obama supporters are doubtless ready to go down with the ship, but every day there are more and more self-described moderates and independents who voted for Obama scratching their heads and wondering what happened to their nonpartisan, pragmatic, intelligent, centrist candidate.
Robert Wallace is is classical liberal studying economics in graduate school. He and his wife work as business analysis consultants, and they live as undercover conservatives with their two small children in a socialist bastion of a college town. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.