Smoot-Hawley Couldn’t Have Been That Bad, Right?

Tyler at Marginal Revolution channels Matt Yglesias one of the more odious portions of the Waxman-Markey bill recently passed in the House, specifically the threat of tariffs on countries who don’t play along with our unserious climate change game. Even Obama says trade protections are a bad idea in this little game.

For those not scoring along at home, a last minute middle of the night amendment was added to the 1000 odd pages of Waxman-Markey that seeks to impose tariffs on countries who don’t battle global warming emissions. Leaving aside the implications of a 1000 page bill having amendments added to it in the middle of the night on Representatives actually reading the bill and leaving aside the fact that it took the NY Times 17 paragraphs to detail that in an article presumably about exactly that, the very fact that we have Representatives so ignorant of history to think that threatening countries like China, India and Brazil with tariffs in order to bully our beliefs onto them shows us the sad, sad state our legislative process is in. The last time we tried a stunt like that, Smoot-Hawley brought about the Great Depression and we all know how that turned out. This will be no different if we try to impose tariffs on China. We are not in a position of power. If China wants to play that game, they can just stop buying Treasuries, in effect preventing indebted America from getting cheap credit and throwing our economy into a tailspin far worse than what we saw last fall.

This bill is a economic and political disaster thrown upon us by short-sighted superficial politicians aiming to get re-elected in 2010 at the expense of our future. It’s the logical result of a political class who once elected do everything in their power to stay elected which in turn focuses their sightlines on the very near horizon and never on the future and well-being of their constituents or the country. Until we do sensible things like ensure that all our politicians read and understand the legislation they are passing, we’ll keep getting ruled by the incompetent and power hungry. None of the Representatives could have possibly read much less understood this bill given that amendments were being added as late as 3 hours before the vote. It’s a disgrace to our democracy.

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