What links Trump, Lincoln and Ferris Bueller?

What links Trump, Lincoln and Ferris Bueller?
From BBC - March 8, 2018

Critics may carp that Donald Trump skipped economics class, like a certain 1980s movie truant. But as the 45th president himself notes, Abraham Lincoln and other historic Republican leaders loved tariffs.

"This bill is an American bill. It is made for the American people and for American interests."

That sounds like President Trump.

But it's William McKinley - another "America First" Republican president - on his Tariff Act of 1890.

When McKinley slapped high duties on US imports, some fellow conservatives thought the powerful Ohio congressman dubbed the "Napoleon of Protection" had gone too far.

"It is the most shameful measure ever proposed to a civilised people," fumed Secretary of State James Blaine. "Go on with it and it will carry our nation to perdition."

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn might well echo that view in regard to current policy.

Cohn, a Democrat, is to quit after losing a battle against Trump's tariff. Congressional Republicans are also imploring the president to drop the plan.

But despite the outcry, Trump has pointed out that raising the economic drawbridge is thoroughly in keeping with his party's historical roots. It was not just McKinley who believed protectionism key to American greatness.

Tariffs were the Republican creed from the Civil War to the Great Depression, and a fundamental doctrine of its preceding party, the Whigs.

Going even further back, the first US Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, now a Broadway musical hero, pioneered tariffs to protect infant American industries from foreign competition. So did fellow Founding Father James Madison.

Republicans from the mid-19th Century onwards continued to champion this fiscal firewall so northern manufacturers could compete with European imports, according to Charles Hankla, professor of political science at Georgia State University.

Democrats, he says, espoused free trade as they were aligned with southern slave-owning plantations that exported cotton to British mills.

It was Abraham Lincoln who inaugurated the Republican party's economic nationalism. Yes, the Great Emancipator was also the Great Protectionist.

"Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth," he said in 1844.

While Trump is sometimes accused of economic illiteracy, Abe himself once apparently exhibited a flimsy grasp of his pet policy while campaigning for Congress in Illinois.

Tariffs would only be collected from "those whose pride, whose abundance of means, prompt them to spurn the manufacturers of our own country and strut in British cloaks and coats and pantaloons", he insisted, according to a biography of him by David Herbert Donald.

A journalist challenged Lincoln on the stump to explain why he thought these duties would make everything cheaper for farmers. The candidate is said to have replied that he "could not tell the reason, but it was so".

Theodore Roosevelt was another Republican president who extolled tariffs as a buttress to American power, according to a biography of him by Edmund Morris.

In 1895, the Rough Rider wrote: "In this country pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce fatty degeneration of the moral fibre."

Despite protectionism's naysayers, the Gilded Age was one of fabulous prosperity.


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