Martha C. White has an excellent report in the Washington Independent on how tariffs and other protectionist policies hurt the poor:
The Commerce Department tweaked China recently when it slapped a 99 percent tariff on Chinese-made oil field pipes entering the U.S. The move was but the latest volley in a long-running skirmish over a wide variety of imports. To the extent that most people think of tariffs at all, it’s usually in a context like this. Tariffs are perceived as little more than an obscure negotiating tactic for trade disputes. But thanks to the large number of imported goods Americans consume on a regular basis, tariffs actually play much more of a role in average Americans’ lives — and household budgets — than they may realize.
Most people take for granted that they know how much an item will cost them when they look at the price tag and figure in the amount of their local sales tax. But low-income Americans end up paying extra for necessities like clothes and shoes — victims of an outdated, inefficient tariff system that inadvertently penalizes the poor. Even proponents of reform, though, acknowledge that the byzantine nature of the tariff code and the low priority it’s generally assigned by lawmakers makes the prospect of changing this entrenched system unlikely.
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