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Dec. 8, 2019

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Jayne: JHB on wrong side in trade war

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Published: September 15, 2019, 6:02am

There was a “Saturday Night Live” skit several years ago, one of their faux commercials, in which a couple is sitting at the kitchen table lamenting their financial state.

Chris Parnell shows up to promote a book he has written: “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford.”

It is a simple premise, but the couple is confused: “I think I’ve got it. I buy something I want, and then hope that I can pay for it, right?”

Well, no. Which means the federal government is about as dense as your typical “Saturday Night Live” character.

In case you missed it, the federal deficit has topped $1 trillion in the first 11 months of the fiscal year — a 19 percent increase over the previous year. In other words, your government is buying stuff it cannot afford, driving up an invoice that will be passed onto your children and their children and generations beyond that. The national debt is more than $22 trillion.

At times, a deficit makes sense. When the economy slumps, government spending can provide a stimulus to keep it on track. The Obama administration had a $1.4 trillion deficit its first year and similar deficits the next two years, as the nation tried to stay afloat during the Bush Recession. By 2016, Obama’s last year in office, the deficit had been reduced to $587 billion, according to the Treasury Department.

And then Republicans took control of the White House, adding it to both chambers of Congress. They passed tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy, and then they bought stuff with money they didn’t have by passing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voted in favor of both bills. This is curious because Herrera Beutler previously had supported a balanced-budget requirement. In 2011, she wrote: “If Congress doesn’t stop the overspending, America will cease to be the ‘land of opportunity’ we all know. I am supporting this strong measure because our current national debt is crippling businesses, hurting families and stifling the growth of new jobs.”

If a politician is in office long enough, it is not difficult to find hypocrisy. Their words land in the public record for easy reference, and the strange bedfellows of politics can lead to changing positions. John Kerry famously said of funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it.” Joe Biden has had to defend several positions from 30 years ago that don’t match with current liberal orthodoxy.

But Herrera Beutler’s acquiesce to President Trump’s economic policy is particularly hypocritical. Not much has changed since 2011 except for which party is in the White House, and Herrera Beutler was correct in asserting that America might cease being the “land of opportunity.”

Most recently, she defended the president’s trade war with China — a war in which Washington state is on the front lines. “I’m not totally sure where the president is going to go from this point,” she recently told The Columbian. “So I’m watching to see what I can do to mitigate the impacts.”

Truth be told, more is needed. Federal officials, the Congressional Budget Office and Wall Street economists predict national economic growth of about 2.2 percent this year — exactly the rate during Obama’s second term. In other words, we traded $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for essentially no economic stimulus. Moody’s Analytics estimates that Trump’s trade war has already reduced U.S. employment by 300,000 jobs compared with likely employment levels if there had been no trade war. And according to Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, an alliance of more than 150 business associations, Trump’s tariffs cost American companies $6.8 billion in July alone.

OK, OK, Tariffs Hurt the Heartland is an advocacy group. So let’s say their estimates are inflated and the cost is only $3.4 billion. Does that make us feel better?

As a representative from the nation’s most trade-dependent state, Herrera Beutler should take a stand against these house-of-cards economic policies. Before they turn into a parody worthy of “SNL.”

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