Loose Change

Scheiber, Noam
December 2003
New Republic;12/22/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 25, p8
The article comments on George W. Bush. One of the truly poetic subplots of the recent flap over U.S. steel tariffs was the skill with which the Europeans played politics. In early November, shortly after the World Trade Organization (WTO) deemed the Bush administration's 20-month-old tariffs illegal, the European Union threatened to retaliate with tariffs of its own--on products that just happened to be key exports of crucial electoral states like Wisconsin and Florida. It wasn't hard to see that the chief beneficiaries of the decision, which came after heavy lobbying by the steel industry, would be steelworkers in swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. The tariffs also happened to be suspiciously timed to expire in March of 2005, just after President Bush would be sworn in for a hoped-for second term. As it turns out, the tariffs were imposed at the suggestion of chief White House political adviser Karl Rove over the objections of just about every member of the Bush economic team. Just last month, as the WTO was winding its way toward the steel-tariff ruling, the president made a further mockery of the free-trade principles he touted on the campaign trail. Using an obscure provision of the bill that ratified China's ascension to the WTO, the president imposed strict quotas on imports of Chinese bras, bathrobes, and various knit products. In the history of presidential politics, only Richard Nixon rivals George W. Bush's level of cynicism about the economy. Nixon used just about every economic trick in the book to ensure his 1972 reelection.


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