Raymond Richman - Jesse Richman - Howard Richman
Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog
How to Avoid Trade Wars While Balancing Trade
It is scandalous the way our media, including the Wall Street Journal, are reporting the world’s reaction to the Trump administration’s imposition of a tariff on steel and aluminum. Since 1975, America’s trading partners, with few exceptions, have enjoyed a surplus in their trade with the USA that has cost American manufacturing workers millions of jobs, caused a relative decline in manufacturing in the USA, and converted the USA from the world’s leading creditor nation to the world’s leading debtor nation. They have all been accusing the Trump administration of starting a trade war when in fact it could be argued that the trade agreements promoted by the USA were suicidal.
Trade Wars are predictable when a country chooses to impose tariffs on or more of a select group of products. It is easy for its trading partners to do likewise. A trade war is rare when a country devalues its currency which is equivalent to a cross-the-board tariff on imports.
The six other members of the G7, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom condemned the USA action. None of the media mentioned the fact that for decades these countries have been waging a trade war on the USA. In 2016, the countries with which the USA had the largest trade deficits, were China, $347.0 billion; the European Union, $146.3, (including Germany, $64.8 billion); Japan, $68.9 billion; Mexico, $63.1 billion; Ireland, $35.9 billion; and S. Korea, $27.7 billion. Only S Korea has agreed to reduce its deficit by increasing imports from the USA. The total trade deficit of the U.S. in 2016 was $734.3 billion. These countries account for 93.8 percent of the total. The reader should note that three of the six G7 countries are included. How could the media accuse the USA of starting a trade war given the fact that it has suffered trade deficits for decades? ...
Economists usually obfuscate the facts about international trade in their zeal to promote free trade. They ignore the fact that some countries deliberately seek a trade surplus, to export more than they import, to accelerate their rates of economic growth. But their growth is at the expense of countries which import more than they export. They ignore the fact that the trade deficits the U.S. has been experiencing for decades have converted the U.S. from being the world’s leading creditor nation to the world’s leading debtor nation, has caused U.S. growth to stagnate, and have caused millions of American workers to lose good-paying manufacturing jobs.
Prof. Rodrik is not one of those who ignores the negative impact of international trade on the U.S. economy, but he does not blame the trade deficits. In his preface, he writes that economists have overstated the magnitude of aggregate gains from trade and elsewhere he writes, “Economists do not fully understand why expanded trade has interacted with the macroeconomy to produce the negative consequences for wages and employment that it has. “Adam Smith and David Ricardo”, he writes, “would turn over in their graves if they read the details of, say, the Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement. (All the multi-lateral agreements involve substantial losses of sovereignty with topics ranging from child labor, minimum wages, global warming, compulsory arbitration, etc., etc.. Some have even created new international institutions like the World Trade Organization.)
Prof. Rodrik does not limit himself to the economists’ views on trade but addresses many other economic and political issues. Industrialization was, he writes, “traditionally a powerful growth engine” but developing countries “typically have neither numbers nor resources on their side” and “low-income countries are running out of industrialization opportunities” for export-led growth. This is an opinion we do not share. As though export-led growth was the only means to achieve growth!. In large part, the book reads like an essay because of similar non-sequiturs.
Nevertheless, the Rodrik's insights are worth considering. He talks about “premature globalization” caused by the creation of the World Trade Organization and ensuring trade deficits which led to today’s “globalization backlash”. Imposition of any tariff is called “protectionism” by economists and the media. But he is wrong to describe tariffs intended to remove a trade deficit as protective. In our view globalization is a nonsense goal. Our goal should be balanced trade, the exchange of domestically produced goods for an equal value of foreign-produced goods. When trade is balanced both trading nations gain from trade. Those sectors that are injured in each country can be compensated by those who gain leaving a net gain overall....
How Trump succeed with North Korea
If you were caught by surprise by the events in Korea, I'd like to suggest that you start following Dilbert cartoonist Scott Addams' blog. He understands how Trump thinks and why he succeeds, so he predicted all of this. The following two blog posts were especially prescient:
1. April 27, 2017: http://blog.dilbert.com/2017/
2. January 3, 2018: http://blog.dilbert.com/2018/
Sea levels for the last 1400 years -- a graph
I ran into this graph in a posting by Kenneth Richard on the Climate Change Dispatch website: 70+ Papers Show There Is Nothing Unusual About Today’s Sea Level Rise And Rate:
This graph combines the actual graph from an academic study (pdf) of sea level in a Denmark salt marsh over the last 1400 years with the latest results from the IPCC, summarized by Kenneth Richards in this posting:
Trade Agreements Are International Examples of Crony Capitalism
The trade agreements have been a disaster for the U.S. because they involve the rewarding of favored industries, e.g., agriculture in the U.S., at the costi of disfavored industries, e.g., iron and steel in the U.S. They are examples of crony capitalism at its worst. China has retaliated for the U.S. tariffs on steel by imposing tariffs of U.S. agricultural products. After meeting with the President, agricultural producers suggested a return to support of the Trans Pacific trade agreements in which agricultural interests benefit at the expense of U.S. manufactured goods....
U.S. Would Profit From a Trade War
The recent decline in share prices on U.S. exchanges have been attributed by many commentators to fear of a trade war. That fear is irrational. The U.S. economy stands to gain, not lose, from a trade war with China and other trade surplus areas including the Eurozone. Only countries with huge trade surpluses with the US – i.e., China, Japan, Germany and the Eurozone, Korea, and Mexico need to fear a trade war. A trade war with any of those countries would result in the end of their chronic US trade surpluses which have been the bass of slow economic growth of the U.S. economy and the weakening of our manufacturing sectors. Workers in manufacturing in the US have suffered losses of millions of good jobs and stagnant and declining wages as a result of the U.S. trade deficits.
The trade agreements have been a disaster for the U.S. because they involve the rewarding of favored industries, e.g., agriculture in the U.S., and the sacrifice of disfavored industries, e.g., steel manufactures in the U.S. They are examples of crony capitalism at its worst. Moreover, after the negotiations, U.S. tariffs that remained are one-half of its trading partners’ average, 2.5% vs. 5.0%.
Chronic trade imbalances have many causes including formal and clandestine trade barriers, inappropriate exchange rates, and lower wage costs. Some commentators have suggested in the case of China to pursue a remedy by appealing to the World Trade Organization. Besides taking years to get any satisfaction, the U.S. cannot even be sure of a favorable outcome. There is a much easier and more certain solution which we described in our book Balanced Trade (Lexington Books, 2014), namely a single-country-variable-tariff applicable to all imports from the trade surplus country which would decrease as trade is brought into balance and increase if the trade imbalance worsens. We generally oppose tariffs on individual products, regarding it as a form of crony capitalism. ...
The cosmic ray explanation of climate change -- an interview with Henrik Svensmark and his son
The USA Needs Balanced Trade Not Free Trade to Stimulate Growth
The US has experienced sky-rocketing international trade deficits over the past six decades reaching $796 billion in 2017. These trade deficits have inflicted considerable harm on the U.S. economy, causing the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs, closing factories, reducing economic growth, and converting the U.S. from the world’s leading creditor nation to the world’s leading debtor nation. The nations who sell more to us than they buy from us are creating jobs for their own workers at the expense of American workers. They use a small proportion of the dollars they earn to buy businesses, assets like GE’s electric appliances division, high tech companies, hotels like the Starwood group, office buildings, etc. If they had used their surpluses to buy goods made in the U.S. the economies of both countries would have benefited and it would not have had beneficial effects on the U.S. economy, U.S. jobs, and the incomes of American workers.
A policy of free trade makes sense only when there are no tariffs or artificial barriers to trade, currencies are not undervalued, and national security is not endangered by trade in particular goods. Pres. Trump signed a bill imposing tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum because the decline of those industries endangers U.S. security, authorized by Art. 21 of the 1994 GATT agreement. The GATT agreement probably limits granting an exemption to any single member country because others could claim the exemption under the most-favored nation clause. Trump was able to exempt e waTrump Mexico and Canada from the tariffs because America has a separate trade agreement, NAFTA¸ with them.
Critics point out that the tariffs will raise the price of products fabricated with steel or aluminum. But the existing low prices of iron and steel and aluminum are at the expense of American workers. American consumers should not be favored at the expense of American wage-earners.
The reality is that most of the world’s output of steel and aluminum is made by a few countries which import less from us than they export to us. According to Wikipedia, total world crude steel production was 1,691.2 million tons (mt) in 2017. The biggest steel producing country was China, which accounted for 49.2% of world steel production and 47.1% of our global trade deficit of $796 billion in 2017. The U.S. produced 81.6 mt or 4.8 percent of the world’s steel output. The European Union produced 168.7 mt or nearly ten percent of the steel and accounted for $151.4 billion or 19% of our global trade deficit. Besides China and the European Union, Japan produced 104.7 mt of steel and accounted for 8.6% of our deficit, S. Korea 71.1 mt and accounted for 2.9% of our trade deficit. We have had huge annual trade deficits with China, Germany and Japan for decades. Imposing tariffs on imports from countries with which we have been experiencing huge trade deficits does not constitute an abandonment of the principle of free trade but is remedial, intended to balance trade. World trade rules permit trading partners to temporarily impose tariffs on goods from countries with which they are experiencing chronic deficits. ...
On Trade, Trump is Acting in the Best Interest of the USA -- we're published in today's American Thinker
Here's a selection:
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On Trade, Trump Is Acting in the Best Interests of the USA
Two members of Pres. Trump’s inner circle of economic advisers are Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, and Peter Novarro, professor of economics at the University of California at Irvine. The latter has just been named assistant to the president that places him among the ranks of the President’s top-level policy advisors. Both have been urging the federal government to eliminate our international trade deficits which during the past half dozen decades have inflicted considerable harm on the U.S. economy particularly its manufacturing sector, causing the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs, reduced U.S. economic growth considerably, converted the U.S. from the world’s leading creditor nation to the world’s leading debtor nation.
The problem is that the nations who sell more to us than they buy from us are creating jobs for their own workers at the expense of American workers. They use a large proportion of dollars they earn from exporting to us to buy U.S. assets which do not create any jobs, buying existing American assets like shares of American corporations often gaining control of American corporations, hotels, office buildings, and the like. If they bought goods made in the U.S. resulting in balance trade, the economies of both countries would benefit and it would not have disastrous effects on the U.S. economy, U.S. jobs, and the incomes of American workers.
A policy of free trade makes sense only when there are no formal or informal barriers to trade, the rate of exchange between currencies is conducive to balanced trade, and national security is not endangered by trade in particular goods. Pres. Trump announced that he plans to impose tariffs of 25% on steel and 10 % on aluminum because a great power needs those industries for its security and free trade is endangering its security. ...
Trump getting serious about trade
On March 6, 2017, Navarro gave a great speech about trade deficits to fellow business economists. His main points were:
1. Trade deficits subtract from GDP growth.
We discussed it in the American Thinker:
Historical Background of Purim
[Note: The first version of this was posted on March 8, 2011. The second was posted on March 8, 2012 and revised March 25, 2012]
For thousands of years people have been inspired by Esther's brave choice when she risked her safety in the king's harem to save the Jewish people from annihilation. Her cousin Mordecai had called her to greatness when he asked her, “Who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14). She had bravely replied to Mordecai:
Some think that the Book of Esther is fiction. But I do not. It fits too well with what we know about Persian history. Even though the Persian libraries were destroyed by Alexander the Great and the Greek reports conflict wildly, the Jewish account of Persian history is quite consistent. Esther is part of a chain of historic Jewish figures (Mordecai, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah) who worked together to save the Jewish people at a time of extreme peril. The following timeline shows how Persian and Jewish history fit together:
Each Jewish event is dated as having taken place during such-and-such year of the reign of such-and-such monarch, so the reigns of the Persian monarchs give us the approximate year of each major Jewish event. On the timeline, the Jewish events are shown above the horizontal axis, while the Persian monarchs are shown below.
I have not deviated from the accepted Persian timeline, except that I have only separated Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes by a dashed line, because I believe that they were a single person who reigned as two different kings. The doubled lines between the reigns of Cambyses II and Darius I and between the reigns of Artaxerxes and Darius II indicate short reigns of quickly deposed kings. This timeline is just the briefest of summaries. Here are more details....
Only Way the Trump Administration Will Be Successful in Fixing the Trade Deficit
An Open Letter to USTR Robert E. Lighthizer
The Only Way You and the Trump Administration Will Be Successful in Fixing the Trade Deficit is to LET TRADE FIX ITSELF! And Here is How.
Your Administration is in office in no small part because of its loud denunciation of international trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP and a pledge to fix the $0.5T annual trade deficit (really closer to $0.75T in actual goods). This is one area where the metrics are well established and failure to make at least a substantial dent in the trade balance will be easily visible to voters by 2020. And while economists may argue the relative importance of the trade deficit to our economy, it is hard to make the case that a net cash outflow of such magnitude does not hurt our economy, undermine domestic manufacturing, break essential supply chains and cost Americans millions of middle class jobs.
Unfortunately, the tools the you have in hand to balance trade are very limited. We are already seeing that jawboning doesn’t work as evidenced by a year-to-date trade deficit in 2017 that is almost 10% worse than 2016. And it is readily apparent to the clear-eyed observer that negotiations can make but a marginal dent in the trade deficit irrespective of the skill of the negotiator. In rough numbers, China exports 4 times as much to the US as it imports from us. Yes, four times! The same with Vietnam. Japan’s trade ratio with the US is over 2 and Germany’s is almost 2.5. (which belies the myth that we are bound to have a big trade deficit because we are a high wage country.), These countries understand that the trade balance does matter and in each case, the surplus with the US is an essential and strategically achieved component of their economy that they will not relinquish at a negotiating table.
We hear proposals that we can fix the trade deficit by “prohibiting” or countering currency manipulation by our trade competitors, but currency manipulation is hard to identify, quantify and prove; to an objective observer, our own quantitative easing looked a lot like currency manipulation. And besides, trade experts have highlighted over 100 different ways other countries tilt the playing field their way irrespective of the words in trade agreements or WTO rules. Others have proposed a substantial (say 25% or more) flat tariff. But such an indiscriminant strategy would incur the wrath of the WTO and penalize our fair-trading partners like Canada and Brazil more than it would the Chinas of the world.
Who knew trade was so hard, and what can we do? The only solution is one that’s not really new, but that never gained traction. That is to employ a “closed loop” mechanism in which the desired results are autonomously achieved – just like with the autopilot on an airplane (or now even on your car). Warren Buffet foresaw the dangers of an emerging trade imbalance in 2003 and published an Op-Ed in the WSJ advocating we adopt a system of “Import Certificates” (i.e., rights to import) that could only be earned by exporting a like value of goods or buying them from someone who had. Thus trade would inherently be balanced. Obviously this would need to be phased in over some period of years to not disrupt the world economy. And it has other drawbacks like requiring a new bureaucracy to manage the certificate marketplace and penalizing our best trading partners like a flat tariff. But the basic concept of using a “feedback” approach was sound....
The Corporate Income Tax Cut Is Unnecessary; Treat Corporations As Partnerships
Corporations are artificial entities and artificial entities bear none of the burden of income taxes; those who own them bear the burden of the income tax and gain from tax reductions. The burden of the corporate income tax is borne by the shareholders, and guess what? The top one percent of the richest Americans own forty percent of the stock of American corporations and the next nine percent own forty percent. The corporate income tax cut from 35% to 20% will reduce their burden 42%. That is why the U.S. stock markets have been booming since Trump’s election. But the purpose of income tax reform is not to make the rich richer; it is to lower taxes on the middle class and eliminate loopholes. So why are we giving the rich (and foreigners who own 15% of American corporate shares) such an enormous tax break?
The reasons given by its proponents is that the U.S. high rate causes American companies to 1) invest in or move their headquarters and factories to lower tax countries, 2) cause U.S. multi-nationals to keep their foreign earnings abroad because to return them to the U.S. will subject them to the higher U.S. income tax rates, and 3) U.S. multi-nationals will use the high rates and low or non-existent American tariffs resulting from international trade agreements to produce their products abroad and to export them to the U.S. duty-free. These and many other evils of the corporate income tax can be corrected by a costless solution, namely, taxing corporate earnings under the personal income tax just as we tax partnership earnings. After all, the corporation is simply a limited liability company and most American partnerships and proprietorship have registered as limited liability companies (LLCs), and 4) stimulate economic growth. Under our proposal, the earnings of foreign subsidiaries would be subject to the personal income tax so there would be no incentive to keep earnings abroad. ...
China's Predatory Economics and How to Stop It -- we're published in American Thinker this morning.
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Job Requirement for Federal Reserve Chair: The Vision to Balance the Dollar
Janet Yellen is nearing the end of her current term as Chair of the Federal Reserve. She may be reappointed. She may be replaced. But either way, whoever takes on the Federal Reserve job needs to work to develop the vision to include managing the value of the dollar as part of the Fed role. The US trade deficit is once again growing, driven by overvaluation of the dollar. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is contemplating how to 'unwind' the trillions in US bonds it acquired as a result of quantitative easing.
The solution to one problem should be used to address the other. As US bonds mature, the Fed should use the proceeds to purchase bonds and other assets as a sovereign wealth fund in countries that are running a large and persistent trade surplus with the US. These purchases will strengthen the US.
1. They will improve the US net international investment position, reducing the extent to which the US is a global debtor.
2. They will help bring about a readjustment in currency values that will help market forces correct the trade deficit.
It is past time to levy a large excise tax on prescription opiods
While many of the costs of opiod addiction are borne by the addicts themselves -- costs that range up to and including 183,000 deaths according to CDC estimates for the period from 1999 through 2015 -- these costs also spread to the broader society in terms of treatment expenses, emergency response, crime, lost productivity, and much more. Hence, opiod addiction creates negative externalities for society, which some estimates put at 80 billion dollars.
A basic principle of the economics of managing negative externalities is that one should seek to make those creating the externality -- those involved in the production and consumption of opiods in this case -- pay for the external costs they are creating through their market transaction. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to impose a tax upon those transactions.
There have been some scattered efforts to do so. For instance Senator...
Needed Corporate Tax Reform Is to Eliminate It
The principal cause of the anemic growth of the U.S. economy in recent decades has been the chronic trade deficits with the rest of the world which have cost millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs and converted the U.S. from the world’s leading creditor to the world’s leading debtor. There are many causes of trade deficits. Tax reform, contrary to the claims made for it, will not balance our trade at all. The US international trade deficits averaged about 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product in recent decades. If trade had been in balance, the growth of the GDP would have been 5.3 percent on the average since 2001 instead of 1.6 percent.
The principal causes of international trade deficits are the relative costs of producing goods and services in different countries, the foreign exchange rates, and the existence of barriers to trade imposed by trading partners. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal 8/1/2017 states that the U.S. imposes fewer barriers on imports than the European Union and China with which we have huge trade deficits. Other countries with which we are experiencing large chronic trade deficits are Japan, Korea, and Mexico. Together with China and the EU, these countries accounted for 88.9 percent of our trade deficit in 2016. An unintended consequence of all of our trade agreements to date is that they enabled American corporations to invest in countries that have low corporate income tax rates and to export their products to the U.S. duty-free, exacerbating the trade imbalances. We would not be concerned about this practice if U.S. trade were in balance.
There is a simple solution to the trade deficits. We can impose single-country-variable-tariffs which are authorized by the world trade agreements which permit member countries to impose tariffs designed to balance trade. The tariff would apply to all imports from the trade surplus county including those of the multi-nationals formerly producing their products in the U.S. So long as trade remains unbalanced, the single-country-variable tariff would produce substantial revenues. Would it start a trade war? Countries with trade surpluses cannot win a trade war with countries they have trade surpluses with. The trade deficit country has the advantage in a trade war. If trade diminishes with the trade surplus partner, it will increase with the other trading partners with whom we have no trade deficit....
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Did Trump Cause the Improved GDP Growth -- Ray and I were published in the American Thinker this morning
Here's the link:
Did Trump Cause the Improved GDP Growth?
By Howard Richman and Raymond Richman
Real GDP rose by 3.0% during the second quarter of 2017, the fastest quarterly rate in over two years, according to data released on Wednesday by the Commerce Department. Did President Trump cause the accelerating economic growth?
The answer is yes. The rapid growth was led by a surge in business fixed investment (purchases by businesses of new tools and structures). If not for that surge, Real GDP would have only grown by 2.2%. The following table shows the contributions of the different types of spending upon economic growth during the second quarter:
How the Democrats and Anti-Trump Republicans Seem Bent on Creating a Fascist USA
Trade Deficits vs.Income Tax Reform to Stimulate Economic Growth
The principal cause of the anemic growth of the U.S. economy in recent decades has been the chronic trade deficits with the rest of the world which have cost millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs and converted the U.S. from the world’s leading creditor to the world’s leading debtor. Multi-country trade agreements encourage American corporations to invest in countries with low corporate income tax rates and to export the goods they produce to the U.S. duty-free. The government’s first task is to bring our trade into better balance. Tax reform will not do it. As the U.S. Gross Domestic Product statistics show, the US international trade deficits averaged about 3 percent per year in recent decades. If trade had been in balance, the growth of the GDP would have been nearly five percent on the average instead of one to two percent. ...
What Income Tax Reforms Are Needed?
A Comment on Recent News
Congress voted sanctions against Russia nearly unanimously for interfering in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 and voted restrictions on Pres. Trump’s ability to lift those sanctions. Congress cannot do much about curbing Russian interventions in the internal politics of other nations. But Congress is hypocritical because the CIA has been interfering in other countries' elections since the middle of the last century, including most recently in the Ukraine....
Suggested Reforms of the Personal Income Tax
After passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913 authorizing enactment of income taxes, Congress enacted the personal income tax. Income had always been considered a good measure of ability to pay. The income tax was conceived as not merely a revenue source but could be used for social engineering. The first bit of social engineering was the taxation of income at progressive rates as a way of reducing income inequality. Another reason given was that very high annual personal incomes are basically undeserved resulting from what economists term economic rents.
But how progressive should the income tax be? That was a question not easy to answer. During WWI, the top marginal rate reached 92%. But that rate could not continue because of its anticipated adverse effect on investment. Reason suggested a better rule based on benefit and cost, namely, that in normal times, the top tax rate should not be higher than the rate that at which the negative effects on the economy equaled the perceived benefits of reduced inequality. No one knows how to determine that rate.
Reform proposals include a reduction of the number of tax brackets from currently seven to three. This does not simplify the calculation of the tax at all. Regardless of the number of brackets, once taxable income is calculated the calculation of the tax liability is simple involving at the most calculation of the sum of two numbers. Reducing the number of brackets interferes with the progressivity of the tax. Over wide ranges of income the tax rate becomes constant with those at lower levels of the income brackets paying the same rate as those at the highest level of the range.
In any case, progressive taxation has been in existence since the first days of income taxation. Congress, soon after the 16th Amendment was adopted in 1913, learned that they could conceal in the income tax code and regulations all kinds of subsidies that benefitted selected constituents. That made it unnecessary to show in the budget how much those benefits, called tax expenditures by economists, cost taxpayers. What followed is that Congress passed bill after bill adding thousands of pages to the personal income tax law which encompassed about 500 pages in 1930 and now covers 2652 pages. Some estimate that the internal revenue code and its regulations cover 74,000 pages!
As the Tax Foundation points out, Over the decades, lawmakers have increasingly asked the tax code to direct all manner of social and economic objectives, such as encouraging people to buy electric and hybrid vehicles, turn corn into gasoline, purchase health insurance, buy a home, replace that home's windows, adopt children, put them in daycare, purchase school supplies, go to college, invest in historic buildings, spend more on research, and the list goes on....
Journal of Economic Literature:
Atlantic Economic Journal: