With Trump headed for Pa., Toomey says China tariffs are ‘absolutely painful’ but ‘could be worth the price’ | Monday Morning Coffee

May 20, 2019 7:15 am

Capital-Star file

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Though he’s been an outspoken critic of the White House’s trade policies, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has defended President Donald Trump’s tough stance with China on Sunday, saying the Asian nation is “in a distinct category separate” from other overseas rivals.

In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” (via Politico), the Lehigh Valley lawmaker said he thinks Trump “is right to challenge China,” but he acknowledged it will come with a price to American consumers.

“China is the world’s second biggest economy. It’s a revisionist power. It’s now, for the first time, attempting to be able to project force. It’s intimidating neighbors. It’s disrupting American institutions. And it has engaged in some egregious economic behavior — the theft of intellectual property in various ways,” Toomey told anchor Chris Wallace, according to Politico.

With the U.S. and China deadlocked, and American consumers guaranteed to feel the pinch, Toomey said an eventual deal “if we reach one, won’t solve all,” the trade disagreements between the two superpowers.

He acknowledged that the “tariffs are absolutely painful and dislocating. But if, in the end, we end up with an agreement that gives us a meaningful reform of China’s most egregious behavior, we might look back and say, ‘This was worth the price that we’re paying,” he told Fox News, according to Politico.

Speaking to WHYY-FM earlier this month, Toomey offered a more modulated message. While he backed Trump’s efforts to crack down on China’s intellectual property theft, he was more sharply critical of the administration’s policy.

A lot of those folks are making consumer goods. And the price of the consumer goods goes up if the price of the inputs goes up,” Toomey told WHYY-FM. “So it may not be quite as obvious to the consumer why the dishwasher or the washing machine or some other product that uses a lot of steel, why that price is higher than they used to be.

“But it’s real —  and it’s costing consumers money,” he told WHYY-FM.

Toomey is sponsoring legislation that would require the White House to seek Congressional authorization before imposing tariffs for national security reasons, which has been the White House’s rationale for its go-it-alone stance.

“I think that has been misused, because I do not believe that our national security is threatened by the modest amounts of steel and aluminum that we import from Canada and Mexico – our closest neighbors, strongest allies and huge trading partners,”  Toomey told WHYY-FM.

Some pro-labor Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., have praised Trump for his tough talk.

More from Pennsylvania:

Trump is set to roll into Lycoming County at 7 p.m. this Monday evening for the ostensible purpose of supporting GOP 12th Congressional District hopeful Fred Keller.

Ahead of Trump’s visit to Williamsport Regional Airport, the progressive super PAC American Bridge blasted journalists’ inboxes with some prebuttal taking aim at the White House’s burgeoning trade war with China and the trade detente that emerged over the weekend with Canada and Mexico.

Donald Trump is insulting Pennsylvania workers and farmers by holding a campaign rally just days after he dismissed the tariffs that are rotting crops and letting factory equipment rust as a ‘little squabble.’ It just goes to show that Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China is little more than a vanity project, and he’s fine flaunting it in the face of Pennsylvanians,” the group said in a statement emailed to political reporters on Sunday.

In an interview with FOX-56 TV, Lycoming County farmer Donald Richard Snyder said he’d already been having a hard time growing soybeans. The tariffs didn’t help.

“Farmers are borderline of making any money at the prices we’re at now,” Snyder told the station.

A Juniata County hog farmer named Chris Hoffman was more vocal in his criticisms.

“One out of four hogs gets exported across our borders here in the U.S. and right now that’s a challenge because of the tariffs. You look at what it’s cost to get our protein into other markets, it’s not as economical anymore as what it was a year ago,” Hoffman said in that August 2018 interview with the station.

In the Heartland:

So far, the farmers who backed Trump in 2016 are sticking with the president – even if they are hurting as a result of the tariffs. But recent reporting suggests there’s a limit to their collective patience.

“He does really seem to be fighting for us,” Iowa farmer Tim Bardole told the Associated Press, “even if it feels like the two sides are throwing punches and we’re in the middle, taking most of the hits.”

Paul Jeschke, who grows corn and soybeans in northern Illinois, described himself and his fellow farmers to the AP as “the frontline soldiers” who are “getting killed as this trade war goes on.”
“I’m unhappy and I think most of us are unhappy with the situation. But most of us understand the merits,” he told the AP.

But, “it’s not like anyone else would be better. The smooth-talking presidents we’ve had recently – they certainly didn’t get anything done.”

Will it matter in the end?

Trump will likely tout his tough stance during Monday night’s stop in Lycoming County. But recent polling seems to indicate that most Americans are unconvinced it will make a difference.

Two-thirds of respondents to a May 13 Hill/HarrisX poll said they don’t think Trump’s trade negotiations with China will lead to “better economic conditions” for Americans, The Hill reported.

A third of respondents (36 percent) to the the survey said the talks would make things worse, while slightly more than three in 10 (31 percent) said they thought they wouldn’t make a difference. Thirty-three percent said the talks will lead to more jobs and better opportunities, The Hill reported.

Nearly six in 10 Democrats (58 percent) said Trump’s trade war would make things worse, compared to 59 percent of Republicans who said they would make things better, The Hill reported.

All of this matters hugely to Trump, who’s obsessed with keeping Pennsylvania in his column for 2020, after carrying the state by barely a percentage point over HIllary Clinton in 2016. Trump’s campaign machine is already beefing up its presence in the state, fretting over whether GOP infrastructure there is up to the task.

“The moves come at a time of growing anxiety over the geographic linchpin of his 2020 hopes. The Trump campaign recently completed a 17-state polling project that concluded the president trails Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, according to two people briefed on the results. America First Action, the principal pro-Trump super PAC, is expected to conduct its own polling and focus groups in Pennsylvania and Michigan later this summer,” Politico reported Monday.

Like 2016 and 2018, it seems safe to say that Pennsylvanians will be seeing plenty of Trump in 2019 and 2020.

Our Stuff:
Stephen Caruso
 has your clip-and-save guide to the key races in this Tuesday’s primary and special elections statewide.

Nick Field was in Philadelphia on Saturday, where he caught Joe Biden calling Trump ‘the divider in chief,’ and vowing that ‘no one will work harder,’ to win the votes of Democratic primary voters.

An anti-abortion group in Scranton blasted the in-boxes of House Democratic who voted against an abortion ban bill with a scolding email laced with Holocaust imagery. The group, Pennsylvanians for Human Life, apologized hours later for the Friday salvo, saying it didn’t mean to offend the Democrats, including such Jewish House members as Rep. Dan Frankel, whose district includes the Tree of Life synagogue.

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, voted with Democrats Friday on a bill aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ AmericansCapital-Star Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reports.

On our Commentary Page, Dick Polman says we’re now one U.S. Supreme Court decision away from abortion being banned for all American women. 

And an activist from NextGen America explains why it’s so important that everyone who’s registered gets a chance to vote – and how we can make sure that happens.

Philadelphia faces a ‘critical shortage’ of poll workers ahead of Tuesday’s primaries, The Inquirer reports.
Pa. is already ‘Ground Zero’ for 2020PennLive reports.
Pa’s Amish and Mennonite communities are facing a ‘growing recognition’ of sexual abuseThe Post-Gazette reports.
A Pa. State Trooper died on the Pa. Turnpike in Bucks County, The Morning Call reports.
The AP looks at how states are teaching consent to kids in the age of #MeToo (via the Tribune-Review).

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM examines at how much (or not) Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has done for the city’s young people.
Montgomery County’s new voting system includes paper ballots, WHYY-FM also reports.
VP Mike Pence will headline the PA GOP’s spring dinner in Hershey on June 6, PoliticsPAreports.
Economists are worried about the nation’s still slow-growing middle classStateline.orgreports.
Roll Call takes stock of where all 24 House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee stand on impeachment.

What Goes On.
It’s gonna be a sleepy week. The House is out until Wednesday. The Senate is out of voting session until June 3.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Well, this explains the lack of House session: The House Republican Campaign Committee holds its annual southwestern golf outing at the Pittsburgh Field Club from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today. Admission runs $750 to $7,500, for which price a dove will descend from Heaven, alight on your ball, and carry it down the fairway to the cup,  where an abortion-ban wielding Mike Turzai will  be waiting to declare a ‘Hole in One.’

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to WITF-FM’s Katie Meyer, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an old favorite from Connecticut’s legendary, Miracle Legion. From their 1996 swansong, ‘Portrait of a Damaged Family,’ it’s ‘You’re My Blessing.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
St. Louis 
is on the brink of the Stanley Cup final, blanking San Jose 5-0 on Sunday. The Blues lead the Sharks 3-2.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.