What the Tariff Means to American Industries

What the Tariff Means to American Industries

What the Tariff Means to American Industries

What the Tariff Means to American Industries

Excerpt

"THE TARIFF is a local issue" is a familiar saying. It implies that the votes of Congressmen and Senators on tariff matters are more likely to be influenced by the presence, or absence, in their constituencies of protected industries than by considerations of national interest. The predominance of local interests can easily be understood, for the federal legislator has a legitimate concern for the welfare of his constituents. Moreover, he may believe that raising or lowering a tariff rate involves no real conflict between local and national interests.

A legislator wants to know the facts in the cases presented for his consideration, but how can he discover them in the welter of conflicting testimony? He learns from a manufacturer in his district that competitive imports are increasing and that his business is on the down grade. The manufacturer claims that foreign competition is responsible for his difficulties and he asks for increased tariffs or, perhaps, for quota restrictions on imports. To support his position, he may assert that his products are essential to national defense.

But among the Congressman's constituents there may also be firms which sell a substantial part of their products abroad. They point out that increased imports make more dollars available to foreigners and hence stimulate American exporting industries. They warn against exaggerating the damaging effects of imports. They suggest that the alleged injury to the domestic firm arises from causes which have nothing to do with increased competition from abroad. Or they assert that, if the complainant would cut his costs, or diversify his product, or explore his markets more thoroughly, he would be able to cope successfully with foreign competition. The defense argument, they imply, is a red herring.

What is the truth in these matters? What are the indications . . .

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