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THIESSEN: Trump tariffs will hurt economy

President Trump's announcement that he will impose stiff tariffs on American companies that purchase imported steel and aluminum should have come as no surprise. From moving our embassy to Jerusalem to pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, Trump is a president who does what he promises. Unfortunately, his proposed tariffs undermine his ability to deliver on many other important promises he made in the 2016 campaign.

Trump promised to champion forgotten Americans, but imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum will hurt more of the forgotten Americans than it helps. The American steel industry employs about 140,000 people, while steel-consuming industries employ 6.5 million. This means Trump is imposing a tax — tariffs are taxes — that will hurt the 6.5 million in order to help the 140,000.

During the campaign, Trump promised to make the auto industry in states such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania "bigger and better and stronger than ever before." But raising taxes, and thus prices, on steel and aluminum will hurt those states' automobile workers, whose jobs depend on steel and aluminum. According to one independent study, the 2002 steel tariffs imposed by President George W. Bush cost 200,000 jobs because of higher steel prices, including 10,553 jobs lost in Ohio, 9,829 lost in Michigan and 8,400 in Pennsylvania. Total lost wages were about $5.5 billion in today's dollars.

The same group now estimates that Trump's proposed tariffs will cost 179,334 jobs — which is more people than the total number of people working in the steel industry today — and will result in a loss of five jobs for every job gained. The losses will hit auto manufacturers, but other industries as well. One of the largest manufacturing employers in Ohio is GE Aviation, which produces jet engines for commercial aircraft. Tariffs will increase their costs compared with those of European rivals such as Rolls-Royce, leading to lost business and lost jobs.

Another promise Trump made in 2016 was to discourage American manufacturers from moving abroad. But in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump's actions will have the opposite effect, creating incentives for manufacturers to move across the border to Canada in order to avoid the tariffs.

Trump also pledged to help create jobs for American workers with new investments to "rebuild our crumbling infrastructure." But the tariffs will drive up the cost of virtually every infrastructure project, reducing both the number of new projects and the number of jobs created, while making the state, local and private-sector investments he wants to leverage far less likely.

Trump also guaranteed a new era of American energy independence. Since steel and aluminum are used in virtually every oil and gas project, though, including drilling, export terminals and the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines Trump approved, the tariffs could lead to delays and even the cancellation of energy projects America needs.

Finally, Trump vowed to rebuild the military. Raising the price of steel and aluminum will increase the cost of new ships, planes and other military hardware — which means we can afford to procure fewer of them, harming our national security.

And all this does not take into account the costs when our trading partners retaliate. Last year, Trump hosted Harley-Davidson executives at the White House and thanked them "for building things in America." Now the European Union is threatening to impose 25 percent retaliatory tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles and other American-made products. Other industries, such as agriculture, in critical swing states could be targeted for retaliation as well.

There is no doubt that China is dumping aluminum and steel into the U.S. market and that American workers are not competing on a level playing field. But Trump's own Commerce Department gave him other, more targeted country-specific options to address these anti-competitive practices. Imposing massive tariffs is not the answer.

Yes, Trump assured voters he would protect the steel and aluminum industries. But he also promised to revive our automobile industry, keep manufacturing jobs from leaving America, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, unleash a new era of energy independence and restore our military strength. His proposed tariffs undermine all of those promises. They will hurt many of the very people Trump came to Washington to help. Fortunately, the president can still decide not to go ahead with the tariffs. For the sake of the forgotten Americans, let's hope he chooses wisely.

THOMAS: Only fools believe North Korea

To what shall North Korea's latest pronouncement to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for certain "security" guarantees be compared?

Choose from one of the following familiar promises: Of course I'll respect you in the morning; I promise to pay you back; I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

It has always been this way with North Korea. It reaches an agreement and then breaks it when it suits, only to use the period when the agreement is in force to violate it and then create a false pretext to nullify it, all the while continuing to build a nuclear arsenal. North Korea then reaches another agreement, which, again, it violates and the cycle continues.

If North Korea were applying for a loan, no bank would lend it a dime because of its deplorable credit rating, yet the West, which often appears to bank more on hope than reality, continues to dole out food and other aid hoping good intentions change Pyongyang's behavior.

The Arms Control Association (ACA), "a national nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies," has compiled a list of North Korea's broken promises that includes selling missile and nuclear technology to Iran and other enemies of the United States. The list runs 37 pages.

Here's one item posted to ACA's website: "In 1994, faced with North Korea's announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid.

"Following the collapse of this agreement in 2002, North Korea claimed that it had withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 and once again began operating its nuclear facilities."

By 2009, after what by then had become familiar disagreements over inspections leading to verification that North Korea was living up to its promises, Pyongyang violated the 2005 agreement by launching missiles and vowing never to return to talks, a pledge it repeated until this latest reported promise to hold new talks about abandoning its nuclear weapons.

In November, President Trump properly returned North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Pyongyang had been there before, but was removed in 2008. Not that it had stopped sponsoring terrorism, but the West does these sorts of things from time to time, falsely believing that what free people do affects the behavior of tyrants and dictators. Apparently, we have forgotten that communists lie as a matter of policy.

Assuming North Korea is now serious about talks following Kim Jong-un's promise to never abandon his nukes (that promise is more credible), what is likely to come of it? If history proves anything — and it does — the answer is nothing that will benefit South Korea, the rest of Asia and most especially the United States. But it will make us feel good for "trying." Kim knows this. It's probably why he will lead us down this dark road again, only to get mugged at the end of it.

OURS: Lawmakers too generous with pay plan

South Dakota lawmakers have negotiated a pay raise for themselves. And it’s just not any pay raise — it’s a 97 percent hike with a guaranteed annual increase, which some might call an entitlement, meaning it does not have to be earned.

If the lawmakers' legislation is signed into law by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, lawmakers will have raised their annual base pay from $6,000 to $11,800 a year. This would be in addition to the $142 a day per diem they now receive. In a 40-day session, that is another $5,680. Lawmakers also receive mileage reimbursements for the long drive to Pierre.

Initially, lawmakers were planning to put a pay raise measure on the ballot. They apparently decided later, however, that it would be better if only those who stand to benefit from it vote on it.

In voting overwhelmingly for the hefty pay raise and future raises, supporters of the legislation have made the case that higher pay equals better lawmakers. In other words, they acknowledge there is room for improvement. Recent and current legislative sessions are a prime example of that point.

For the past two years, lawmakers have considered numerous bills to essentially nullify the initiative-and-referendum process that led to Initiated Measure 22, which sought to reform campaign and election laws. It was approved by voters and then killed by lawmakers.

In doing so, lawmakers like House Speaker Mark Mickelson have claimed the ballot process has turned voters into pawns of others and that they lack the intellectual capacity to understand ballot measures. Perhaps, he believes voters also won’t understand why lawmakers need a 97 percent pay raise and automatic annual pay increases.

It is a difficult argument to make. The reality is that it would take much higher pay to bring new blood into a Legislature now dominated by retirees, business owners and those who work for big companies with their own legislative agendas. The pay hike will not change that dynamic, however. Instead, it will be a pay raise for the current crop of lawmakers who this year have passed no significant legislation to improve health care, workforce development, education, mental health care or school safety despite the fact that more than 600 bills were introduced.

On the other hand, the pay hike will cost the state an additional $655,000 starting in 2019. Lawmakers also have not earmarked a source of revenue for their pay raises, which means in years when sales tax collections are down the money will be taken from other sources.

State employees, meanwhile, did not receive a pay raise in the last fiscal year due to lagging sales tax collections and may not again this year. Unlike what lawmakers want for themselves, they are not guaranteed a pay raise and don't get them every year. In fact, it was only eight years ago that Gov. Daugaard ordered a nearly 10 percent cut in state spending to balance the budget. Would state lawmakers pay be exempted from this if it happens again?

It is not unreasonable to consider pay hikes for state lawmakers. It is a demanding and important job. A 97 percent increase is too high, however, and automatic annual pay raises that no one else in state government receives seems entirely self-serving.

A governor who is in his final year in office and prides himself on fiscal responsibility should not sign this bill. The Legislature needs to consider a more reasonable bill next session, one that passes the South Dakota common-sense test.

March 8, 2018, letters

NRA's agenda is not good for US

While running for the state House from District 35 in 2014 and 2016, the NRA sent me questionnaires. I agreed with them on "all" but one issue — "assault rifles." They gave me a failing grade for my answers on the first one. I didn't waste my time on the second one.

Who are these people? Do they really represent their core members concerns? They may be a bunch of overpaid bullies with hidden agendas. With all the good they claim to do, I give them a failing grade for endangering our human rights. No other country (not even Mexico) has near the problem we have with assault rifles. Guess why. They see that protecting their citizens outweighs the fascination of an "old-west" mentality, especially since modern firearms have become ultra-efficient. We've become so paranoid over this issue that propaganda is now the norm. It must stop before pre-emptive solutions become the norm.

Incidentally, Russia has gun control and loves that we don't. Every "bawn-jur" story they flood us with divides us all the more. As a free society, we are easy targets for totalitarians. Wake up America and know thy real enemy.

Dave Freytag

Rapid City

Trump is the me-first president

Donald Trump's latest whopper of a lie was that he would have run unarmed into the Florida school where a massacre was taking place by a young man armed with an AR-15. On the Howard Stern show, however, he told the truth about himself.

Donald Trump talked about his extreme distaste for blood. He said, “I’m not good for medical. In other words, if you cut your finger and there's blood pouring out, I'm gone.” An 80-year-old man fell off the stage at a Trump Mar A Lago ball and suffered a severe head wound, and his blood was pouring out on Trump's "beautiful marble floor." Although Trump was among the closest to the man on the floor, He turned away and did nothing. He also said, “I didn't even call him later. I'm not good at that."

He is a narcissist who always considers himself first.

Robert Ackerman

Rapid City