Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Aug. 16

‘Tariff Man’ strikes again with beer can tax

Donald Trump might have learned some basics about tariffs — such as who pays for them — during his more than 3½ years of waging unwise trade wars.

Instead, the Republican president still doesn’t get, or simply ignores, the financial burden on regular Americans. Trump continues to claim that nations on whose goods he imposes tariffs pay the import taxes. In fact, U.S. consumers or companies end up footing the bill.

Take the new 10% import tax Trump says he is going to reinstate on Canadian aluminum. Canada won’t pay that. Companies that use aluminum will, and then they’ll pass it on to consumers who buy their products. And when other countries retaliate with tariffs of their own, American workers suffer because the goods they produce aren’t as competitive. Less demand becomes less work becomes smaller or fewer paychecks.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, appropriately criticized Trump’s aluminum tax and its effect on the Badger State.

“These tariffs will also disproportionately harm Wisconsin’s storied beer industry, which is already facing weakened demand due to a national shortage of aluminum cans and a stagnant economy,” Kind said. “This is not how we treat allies that we have recently agreed to a new trade deal with.”

The tariff likely violates the recent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Trump was so proud to negotiate, Kind warned.

Trump, who calls himself “Tariff Man,” points to a surge in imported Canadian aluminum to support his charge that Canada was trying to flood the U.S. market. But aluminum demand has gone up as pandemic quarantines have driven bar patrons home and away from draft or bottled beer. In addition, the growing popularity of hard seltzers has increased demand for aluminum cans.

Imports of Canadian aluminum have actually leveled off, and they even dropped from May to June, according to the Aluminum Association trade group, further undercutting Trump’s stated rationale.

Instead, it seems clear that Trump, who announced the tariffs at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, is trying to score points with Midwest industrial workers. But a move that will make people pay more for beer and other products served in aluminum cans while harming American workers affected by Canada’s retaliatory tariffs seems destined to backfire — especially with the economy tanking because of the pandemic.

Trump’s trade wars have been unmitigated disasters. His trade war with China cost U.S. farmers billions — devastating Wisconsin dairy and soybean farmers. He tried to make up for that with $28 billion in bailouts, but the programs were beset by scandal and incompetence.

Wisconsin’s congressional delegation must try again to pass the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, stripping Trump of the ability to unilaterally impose tariffs by simply claiming they are necessary to protect national security.

Launching another unnecessary, unwinnable trade war during a global pandemic against an ally that recently signed a trade treaty with America is the real threat to national security. Soybeans were one thing. But when the price of a six-pack goes up because the cans are more expensive, maybe Americans and Congress will finally do something.


The Capital Times, Madison, Aug. 11

Epic needs to hit the reset button

Epic Systems is more than just a major employer in the Madison area. It is a tech giant that has contributed much and helped define this region as a center of innovation and future-oriented economic development.

What Epic does matters for Madison, Dane County and Wisconsin.

So when Epic indicated that it was going to require employees to return to work at a point when the coronavirus pandemic was not under control, Epic employees objected to the company’s plan.

After first refusing to bend on its plans, the company, to its credit, signaled that it would loosen its mandate — but only after Dane County supervisors raised questions with public health officials. Instead of requiring workers to return for in-person work this week, Epic announced that if employees “do not feel that their personal circumstances or concerns allow them to return to campus, they are no longer required to do so.”

That sounds good. But employees continue to complain that the messages continue to be overly complicated and confusing. Their concern is that the company still seems to be telling employees what to do, rather than listening to the people who have helped make Epic a success.

Epic’s policy could use a reset. The company has signaled that it will work with Public Health Madison & Dane County to develop plans for returning to work that respect requirements outlined in Dane County’s public health order. Those plans should not be pulled together in a haphazard manner.

Epic has been a stalwart leader in the business community and an example for many. It should use this opportunity to set an industry standard for protecting the health and safety of employees, customers and the community.


The Journal Times of Racine, Aug. 12

Thank you, members of the National Guard

It would be nice to think that if we stopped testing for coronavirus, then the disease would stop. But it doesn’t work that way.

Ongoing testing is vital and the role the National Guard is playing in this effort is key.

While some clinics and pharmacies are doing testing throughout the last months, the National Guard has really taken the lead on helping test people throughout our community as well as the state and nation as a whole.

The system has been working great. You don’t need an appointment. You drive up and get your test. You may have to wait a while in line, but that still beats having to call around and explain your circumstance to a handful of people. Then you get a call telling you your results. A hotline has also since been established to more easily check on results.

In addition, the National Guard goes into high-risk facilities like correctional institutions and nursing homes to conduct facility testing.

That initiative should continue to be a priority at both the national and state level.

There was concern that the federal funding of the National Guard could stop and all the funding would be pushed entirely to the states. That didn’t happen, instead the federal government will continue to fund 75% of the cost. States are also able to use the pandemic relief money they received as part of the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), to cover the 25%.

The president has allowed an exception for Florida and Texas, where 100% of the National Guard COVID cost is to be paid by the federal government. It’s not entirely clear why those two states get the extra funding and other states should also be eligible for the extra funds if needed.

Government agencies — especially as they approach their budget cycles — are going to be stretched thin realizing they are not going to have the revenue they anticipated. And through that, the National Guard needs to continue to be prioritized.

Here in Wisconsin, not only are the troops helping with testing, they are also helping with our elections.

They helped in April for the presidential primary, helped again with this week’s primary election and almost certainly will be helping with the November election. Many of the poll workers who normally work are older and part of the COVID-vulnerable population; the Guard has stepped in to fill the gap and ensure the integrity of the election.

The National Guard’s slogan is “Always ready, always there.” They have really lived up to that over the last few months.

We thank the National Guard for all they have done, and continue to do.