Billionaire conservative megadonor Charles Koch slammed President Donald Trump’s announced plans to impose fresh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports in a Washington Post op-ed, arguing that such policies would do far more harm than good for the U.S., both economically and culturally.
“Just as the United States benefits from the ideas and skills that opportunity-seeking immigrants bring with them, free trade has been essential to our society’s prosperity and to people improving their lives,” Koch wrote in his op-ed, published online Wednesday night. “Countries with the freest trade have tended to not only be the wealthiest but also the most tolerant. Conversely, the restriction of trade — whether through tariffs, quotas or other means — has hurt the economy and pitted people against each other.”
Trump has long pushed a protectionist trade agenda that has put him at odds with the orthodoxy of his own party, which has typically been supportive of free trade policies. The president, who pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal upon taking office and has threatened to do the same with NAFTA, has argued that the U.S. has long allowed other nations to take advantage of it in international trade and his policies, including tariffs, will level the playing field.
But Koch argued that the president’s proposed tariffs – 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum – will wind up hurting Americans by raising prices, effectively undoing the economic benefits Koch said have come from the package of tax cuts and reforms that Trump signed into law last year.
It will be consumers, Koch said, not companies who end up bearing the brunt of the president’s tariffs. Such trade policies are severely inefficient means of promoting job creation, he wrote, and would ultimately wind up creating a net loss of jobs even as some corporations benefit financially. Corporate leaders, Koch said, should be urging Trump not to impose his proposed tariffs because “if we are to have a system in which businesses can succeed long term, policies must benefit everyone, not just the few.”
“Without a doubt, those who can least afford it will be harmed the most. Having just helped consumers keep more of their money by passing tax reform, it makes little sense to take it away via higher costs,” Koch wrote. “Tariffs will only perpetuate the rigged system that threatens the very core of our society. When large companies can pressure politicians to force everyday Americans to fork over unearned millions, we should all question the fairness of the system.”