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Trump Bubble Bursts

A Commentary By John Stossel


The bubble burst. My fantasy died.    

I wasn't a big Donald Trump backer -- on TV I have called him a bully, a narcissist, etc. -- but his first days were thrilling!   

Finally, a president who meant it when he said he'd cut red tape that kills growth, a man who mocks political correctness and sneers at leftist reporters. Finally, an executive choosing good people: Andy Puzder, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo...    

These are not the political hacks I've come to expect from D.C. -- not the smug bureaucracy-lovers Hillary Clinton would have inflicted on us. These are people who understand the limits of government command and control, people eager to lift the web of opportunity-smothering rules.    

Trump revived the Keystone Pipeline, froze federal hiring. Wow.    

But then he broke my heart.    

His immigrant ban is bad. I won't write about it until I know more. But even before that, he said he'd impose a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports, and he trashed trade by insisting that "we want the (Keystone) pipe to be manufactured here!"   

I know -- he said stuff like that when campaigning, but I didn't think he meant it. His own businesses use overseas suppliers if they are cheaper or better. He must know that tariffs punish Americans, that a trade war helped create the Depression.    

"Protecting" jobs with bans and tariffs is counterproductive.    

You Trump fans will sneer at that, but please, hear me out.    

Yes, some steelworkers' jobs are saved by buy-American edicts, but more jobs will be lost. It's hard to recognize this because of a conflict economist Frederic Bastiat called "the seen vs. the unseen."    

We see the jobs at a steel plant. If it closes, our cameras record the moment. We interview the workers on their last day. Our hearts break at their disappointment. Many won't find other jobs, or jobs that pay as well. We want to "do something" to help.    

What we don't as easily see, though, are the many jobs created if companies are free to use steel that's a little cheaper. We don't see the jobs created by the dynamism that results when people are free to buy and sell all over the world. Alternatively, we don't easily see the jobs that never get created because tariffs or "buy American" rules make ingredients more expensive.    

The media never show those jobs, but they are very real nevertheless. History makes it clear: Where trade is free, prosperity follows. When it is restricted, stagnation follows.    

Open societies are better than the alternative. In 1400, China led the world. They invented gunpowder, the compass, the clock, real paper and printing.    

Then they walled themselves off. They burned the trading ships. The emperor wanted to "protect" the Chinese from outsiders.    

The result was stagnation. By last century (before free market reforms), China was one of the poorest nations on earth.   

In his inaugural speech, President Trump promised to take power from Washington and give it "back to you, the people." America "must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs."?    

At Cafe Hayek, economist Don Boudreaux writes, "Overlook the absurd suggestion that foreigners who peacefully offer to sell to us attractive products at low prices are akin to invading armies ... Trump's incessant promise to raise trade barriers is a promise to reduce each American's freedom to spend his or her money as he or she chooses ... a pledge to give to politicians and bureaucrats in the capital city more authority."    

Still, I want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.    

But historian Robert Higgs asks: "Why do some libertarians cut Trump so much slack? ... (s)omeone who enjoys thumbing his nose at the political establishment (poses) his own brand of threat to your life, liberty, and property. Trump talks about many things. ... But ... there is one topic that he never mentions, and that is freedom."   

It's true. I never hear Trump say the word.    

I wish he knew what it really means.    

John Stossel is the author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.


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