In the letter copied below, economics professor Don Boudreaux jousts with Mitt Romney’s anti-trade campaign rhetoric. Don’s line about campaigning as a verbal wrestling match that is devious and tawdry is particularly good.
16 September 2012
Mr. Mitt Romney
Campaign Trail, USA
Dear Mr. Romney:
In a pre-recorded radio broadcast yesterday you asserted that “In 2008, candidate Obama promised to take China to the mat. But since then he’s let China run all over us…. [T]o keep more jobs in America, we [you and V-P Paul Ryan] will label China a currency manipulator.”
One can (almost) forgive a campaigning politician for selective use of facts and poor use of reason. A campaign, after all, is not a seminar for discovering truth. It’s a verbal wrestling match to get votes by whatever means, regardless of how tawdry or devious.
Less forgivable is a campaign promise to break a campaign promise. Your wish to “label China a currency manipulator” means that you seek a pretext to impose (as your website says*) “countervailing duties” on imports from China – which is to say, you seek a pretext for raising taxes on Americans who buy goods and services from China. Yet in other episodes of your campaign you promise (as you did here** last month) “I will not raise taxes on the American people. I will not raise taxes on middle-income Americans.”
If you keep your promise to impose countervailing duties on imports from China you will thereby break your promise not to raise taxes on the American people. (Americans who buy imports from China are, after all, American people.) But if you keep your promise to not raise taxes on the American people, you must – as I hope you will – break your promise to punitively tax those many Americans who buy imports from China.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University