“Buy American!” – A Protectionist Dialogue.

In light of the recent announcement of Trump’s “Buy American” executive orders, I present a theoretical dialogue between Trump and myself:

Trump: “Buy American!”

Me: “Noted.”

Trump: “Let me rephrase that: I demand you to buy American.”

Me: “Why?”

Trump: “Because it’s your duty!”

Me: “Why?”

Trump: “Because it helps the economy!”

Me: “How?”

Trump: “Because it gives money to Americans, not foreigners!”

Me: “But American companies charge me more.”

Trump: “No, they don’t.”

Me: “Yes, they do. Wal-Mart is filled with goods from China for that reason.”

Trump: “Ridiculous.”

Me: “What’s the federal minimum wage in the USA?”

Trump: “$7.25”

Me: “The highest regional minimum wage in China is 17 yuan.”

Trump: “17 yuan?”

Me: “$2.75”

Trump: “OK, maybe they really are cheaper. But that’s unfair.”

Me: “Why?”

Trump: “They’re undercutting us.”

Me: “How?”

Trump: “Currency manipulation. They purposefully keep the yuan low against the dollar so that they outdo our prices and beat our companies.”

Me: “Our companies? I wasn’t aware I owned any companies.”

Trump: “I mean, companies owned by other Americans.”

Me: “Ah.”

Trump: “Anyway, it’s just not fair.”

Me: “So China keeps their currency low?”

Trump: “Right.”

Me: “By ‘China’, you mean the Chinese government?”

Trump: “…Exactly!”

Me: “So the Chinese government devalues it’s own currency against the dollar, thereby making their own products less expensive to American consumers.”

Trump: “Exactly!”

Me: “Meanwhile, the savings of regular Chinese people goes down in value. They get screwed.”

Trump: “Yes, I suppose that’s true.”

Me: “But my money goes up in value against Chinese goods.”

Trump: “Exactly!”

Me: “So I benefit from this.”

Trump: “Exac-!… wait, what?”

Me: “Don’t I? I’m an American consumer. Lower prices sound good to me.”

Trump: *puckers lips* “Well, they’re not good for you.”

Me: “Why?”

Trump: “Because they’re not good for the economy.”

Me: “Why?”

Trump: “I mean, it’s not good for the economy because our companies can’t compete.”

Me: “You mean companies that are owned by other Americans.”

Trump: “Yeah, whatever. You know what I mean.”

Me: “But I get to keep more money.”

Trump: “Well…”

Me: “And I get more bang for my buck.”

Trump: “Fine, so what?”

Me: “Why would I want to change that?”

Trump: “Don’t you get it? You’re hurting American companies!”

Me: “So?”

Trump: “That’s not patriotic. Cheap competitors from abroad hurt Americans.”

Me: “What about cheap competitors from Michigan?”

Trump: “…What?”

Me: “If companies in Michigan make inexpensive goods and export them across America, doesn’t that hurt companies in all other 49 states?”

Trump: “No.”

Me: “Why not?”

Trump: “Because it’s all inside the border.”

Me: “So?”

Trump: “So it’s good for America.”

Me: “So Americans should be allowed to compete with Americans.”

Trump: “Yes.”

Me: “American consumers should be allowed to pit American companies against each other for the best prices.”

Trump: “Yes.”

Me: “But not foreign companies.”

Trump: “Absolutely not.”

Me: “So it’s unfair for a foreign company to drive an American company out of business, but it’s OK for an American company to drive another American company out of business?”

Trump: “Right.”

Me: “I don’t think it matters.”

Trump: “Of course it matters. It hurts American workers!”

Me: “But you just said it was OK for American workers to hurt other American workers.”

Trump: “You’re trying to trap me, and I don’t like it.”

Me: “Anyway, I just want high-quality goods and cheap prices. Chinese companies give me this.”

Trump: “Unacceptable.”

Me: “Well, that’s life.”

Trump: “Not for much longer. We need tariffs.”

Me: “Taxes on imports?”

Trump: “No no! I said tariffs, not taxes.”

Me: “So you want to make foreign goods more expensive.”

Trump: “Yes.”

Me: “And you want to use a tariff to do that.”

Trump: “You’ve got it.”

Me: “So by slapping a surcharge onto Chinese goods, you want to force me to buy American goods.”

Trump: “You make it sound like a bad thing.”

Me: “It is. You’re costing me money.”

Trump: “All for the greater good.”

Me: “How do you figure?”

Trump: “It’s better for the economy.”

Me: “So if I’m paying higher prices at the store and getting less bang for my buck, that’s good for the economy?”

Trump: “That’s right. As long as those goods are American.”

Me: “But I’m not able to buy as much. This damages my standard of living.”

Trump: “Oh, hush. The money will get back to you.”

Me: “I’d rather spend my own money on what I want to spend it on, right now.”

Trump: “And you’ll get to. As long as you buy American, or buy foreign with a hefty tax.”

Me: “Tax?”

Trump: “I mean tariff! Slip of the tongue. Anyways, tariffs make us richer.”

Me: “Us? I don’t think so. They make some people richer, but not me. They certainly make the government richer, when they collect more in taxes.”

Trump: “They help American workers.”

Me: “But goods will be more expensive.”

Trump: “So what if they are?”

Me: “When American workers can buy more with their money, they get richer.”

Trump: “What’s your point?”

Me: “You’re suggesting that we make Americans richer by raising prices on them, which does not make sense.”

Trump: “I didn’t say that.”

Me: “You’ve literally just said that you wanted tariffs, and that foreign companies should not be allowed to sell cheaper than American companies. What about any of that does not equal higher prices?”

Trump: “Man, you ask way too many questions.”

Me: “Let me repeat: I just want high-quality goods at low prices. I feel confident in saying that all Americans want this. That’s why Amazon and Wal-Mart are so popular.”

Trump: “…”

Me: “If China gives me that, than so be it.”

Trump: “I don’t think so.”

Me: “Why?”

Trump: “Because I’m going to put a tariff on Chinese goods.”

Me: “So I won’t be allowed to freely buy from Chinese companies?”

Trump: “Not without a tariff, you won’t.”

Me: “So I presume you’re going to send men out with badges and guns to make sure I don’t.”

Trump: “Absolutely. God bless America.”

Me: “Whatever happened to ‘Land of the Free’?”

Trump: “I prefer to think of it as ‘Land of the Free-ish’.”

Me: “Am I going to get those tax breaks you promised, at least?”

Trump: *winks* “Of course you will.”

Me: “I’m starting to think that might not be true.”

Trump: “Don’t worry about it.”

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