Money for nothing…

Är en del av Donald Trumps handelspolitiska ombytlighet ett sätt att skaffa förmåner från branscher som är beredda att betala för att aviserade åtgärder fördröjs eller inte genomför? 

Det är en ful och lite konspiratorisk misstanke, men det finns tidigare exempel på det beteendet från amerikanska politiker.

Ekonomen Bruce Yandle luftar en lite underhållande, eller möjligen bekymmersam, teori om Donald Trumps beteende när det gäller handelspolitiken.

Juristen Fred S. McChesney har i en bok med just titeln Money for Nothing beskrivit hur politiker föreslår mycket långtgående regleringar av en bransch, och sen mot kampanjbidrag eller liknande förmåner tar tillbaka en del av förslagen. De tar helt enkelt betalt för att inte göra något.

“Another example of McChesney’s theory occurred while he served as an official at the Federal Trade Commission during the Reagan administration. (I was also at the agency at the time.) The episode involved the funeral home industry, an industry that had never been confronted by federal regulation and therefore had no meaningful Washington lobbying presence.

In the interest of protecting funeral consumers at a time of high emotional stress, and following the guidance of its oversight committees, the FTC proposed a process for unbundling the charges associated with a funeral, specified a format for discussing details with the aggrieved parties, and went on to require all funeral homes to provide all forms of funeral services through their own facilities, including cremation.

(—)

With congressional guidance, the FTC did modify the rule, which became final in 1984. Some of the more burdensome requirements were removed, and the industry became a contributor to the campaign efforts of those who assisted it in this time of difficulty. By 1990, the industry — mostly made of small enterprises — was spending $240,000 annually on federal lobbying activity. That amount increased to around $1 million in 1998 when the rules were modified and then receded back to about $700,000 by 2018.”

En miljon dollar är förstås ingen större summa när det kommer till politisk påverkan i D.C., men det kan å andra sidan inte ha varit så många som ägnade sig åt regleringen av begravningsbyråer.

Men agerandet ger förstås en rationell förklaring till Donald Trumps hattande när det gäller handelspolitiken.

Är det en långsökt förklaring? Är det fel att antyda att Donald Trump använder hotet om tullar för att gynna sina politiska intressen inför presidentvalet?

Kanske, men Yandle argumenterar för att det är ett rimligt antagande.

“Now consider the Trump administration’s tariff policies. On August 1, the president announced unexpectedly an expansion to the program that would place a 10 percent tariff on some $300 billion of Chinese exports. A 25 percent tariff was already in place on other goods. The list of items was extensive and largely covered consumer products. Prominently included were shoes, toys, a host of consumer electronics, and Apple’s latest 5G phones, then scheduled to be announced prior to Christmas.

As expected, howls were heard from all kinds of consumer-goods trade associations as well as from Apple. On August 13, Mr. Trump announced that some items would be excluded from the tariff list, including toys, laptop computers, and iPhones. But, perhaps to keep people wondering and not wandering too far, he indicated that exemptions would expire on December 15. Might the administration have gotten some political support in exchange for the right kind of nothing, with an opportunity for more of the same coming when the decision is revisited in December?

Of course, this is not the first time the administration walked back a major tariff threat. Remember? Mr. Trump pushed for tariffs on all goods crossing the Mexican border and then pulled back. Tariffs were proposed for everything coming from Guatemala and later called off. Still pending are possible tariffs on European cars and French wine. The president and his advisors are experienced negotiators who understand the importance of reaching for the moon when, deep down inside, they expect something far less dramatic. They nonetheless act as though they’ve read McChesney’s book.

Perhaps this is something else — a simple policy reconsideration or a negotiating tactic of another sort. But this administration would not be the first to obtain money for nothing. Far from it.”

Att amerikansk politik innehåller en del mindre hedersamma element förvånar knappast någon. Med tanke på att Trumps handelspolitik drabbar enskilda och kostar världsekonomin miljarder dollar i utebliven tillväxt är det en ren skandal. Men Trumps handelspolitik är en katastrof, oavsett vilka motiv han har till att driva den.

 

 

 


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