Yet Another Bush Failure: Steel Tariffs

Later today the International Trade Commission (ITC) will release its midterm report about the effects of the steel tariffs that Bush imposed in March of 2002. It looks like the steel tariffs have been yet another Bush failure.

The Washington Post discusses why, and has a fascinating peek into the Bush Administration’s internal debate over the steel tariffs. The President who, while campaigning for President said that free trade was “not just monetary, but moral,” and that he would “work to end tariffs and break down barriers everywhere, entirely, so the whole world trades in freedom,” imposed the highest tariffs the US has had on steel in decades. Estimates mentioned in the Post article suggest that the steel tariffs have cost the US tens or potentially hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past 18 months – and more importantly to the Bush administration, the tariffs have potentially cost them support in crucial swing states without winning the support of steel unions. That’s why the ITC report will make interesting reading. Well, okay, at least the summary will make interesting reading.

The real question is this: will the Bush administration realize that the steel tariffs have backfired, and reverse course? They have the option of reducing or eliminating the tariffs, if they wish. Which brings us to my favorite line from the Post article:

The only reason they won’t do it [remove the tariffs] is if they’re unwilling to admit they made a mistake,” said a Republican strategist who works closely with the White House.

Good thing this White House has so clearly demonstrated the ability to admit it when they make a mistake. Anyone want to place odds on the chances that they’ll reverse their steel policy?