Reprinted from Alternet
Last week's sixth Republican debate featured the usual lies, misstatements and misrepresentations on subjects ranging from basic science to the imaginary plot by the Supreme Court to confiscate your guns. But we actually heard the truth on one subject, and believe it or not, it came from Donald Trump: The United States needs to enact tariffs to protect our jobs and our economy.
During an exchange with his Republican rivals, Donald Trump said, "You can't deal with China without [a] tariff. They do it to us. We don't do it. It's not fair trade." Even the right-wing moderators quickly tried to dispute the Donald, but on this one point, he happens to be exactly right.
Our businesses will never compete with state-backed businesses in other countries if we don't impose a tariff on the products that they ship to our shores. Our workers will never stand a chance against the slave-wage laborers in developing nations. That's exactly why our founding fathers implemented tariffs at the birth of our nation, and those tariffs helped American manufacturers become the envy of the world for the next two centuries.
In fact, our founders believed so strongly that American manufacturers were vital to the success of our young nation, that our first President, George Washington, refused to be inaugurated in a suit that wasn't made by American workers.
On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, showed up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington that he'd just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation's capital, New York City.
This created two problems for Washington.
The first was saying goodbye to his 82-year-old mother, which the 57-year-old Washington did that night. She gave him her blessing and told him it was the last time he'd see her alive, as she was gravely ill. Indeed, she died before he returned from New York.
The second problem was finding a suit of clothes made in America. For that he sent a courier to his old friend and fellow general from the American Revolutionary War, Henry Knox.
Washington couldn't find a suit made in America because in the years prior to the American Revolution, the British East India Company (whose tea was thrown into Boston Harbor by outraged colonists after the Tea Act of 1773 gave the world's largest transnational corporation a giant tax break) controlled the manufacture and the transportation of a whole range of goods, including fine clothing. Cotton and wool could be grown and sheared in the colonies, but it had to be sent to England to be turned into clothes.
This was a routine policy for England, and it is why until India achieved its independence in 1947 Mahatma Gandhi (who was assassinated a year later) sat with his spinning wheel for his lectures and spun daily in his own home. It was, like his Salt March, a protest against the colonial practices of England and an entreaty to his fellow Indians to make their own clothes to gain independence from British companies and institutions.
Fortunately for George Washington, an American clothing company had been established on April 28, 1783, in Hartford, Connecticut, by a man named Daniel Hinsdale, and it produced high-quality woolen and cotton clothing as well as items made from imported silk. It was to Hinsdale's company that Knox turned, and he helped Washington get -- in time for his inauguration two weeks later -- a nice, but not excessively elegant, brown American-made suit. (He wore British black later for the celebrations and the most famous painting.)
When Washington became president in 1789, most of America's personal and industrial products of any significance were manufactured in England or in its colonies. Washington asked his first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, what could be done about that, and Hamilton came up with an 11-point plan to foster American manufacturing, which he presented to Congress in 1791.
By 1793 most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either President Washington or the various states, which put the country on a path of developing its industrial base and generating the largest source of federal revenue for more than 100 years.
His strategic proposals built the greatest industrial powerhouse the world had ever seen and, after more than 200 successful years, were abandoned only during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton (and remain abandoned to this day). And, the Trans Pacific Partnership will be the final nail in the coffin of Alexander Hamilton's plan.
Donald Trump may be wrong on just about everything, but he's absolutely right about tariffs. Whether that's because of his incredible business sense or simple a proverbial stopped clock, I'll let you decide.
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