Angry at China? American companies also benefit from protectionism

As they’ve done in the past, American business interests are clamoring for more government support to fight off the protectionist policies of China. This round of protests come with the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the White House and his meeting with 18 Chinese and American business leaders yesterday. American business leaders have decided to focus on Chinese governmental barriers that work to give preferential treatment to Chinese businesses over foreign businesses. American businesses are asking for help from the government. The business community is asking the government to help resolve the situation. And by “help” they of course mean to enact even more protectionist measures for American companies.

I say more because American businesses already benefit from massive amounts of subsidies and regulations that prevent open competition inside America. The sugar industry alone received subsidies and benefits costing US families $1.5 billion a year. Overall US agricultural subsidies are upwards of $18 billion.  

And lest you think subsidies aren’t enough (or that all the money is going to the agricultural industry) the US government isn’t shy on direct bailouts to other industries either. TARP gave out $700 billion to cover the losses of various banks and the stimulus package injected $787 billion to American industries ranging from solar panels to the steel industry. The US government has also directly taken over businesses that were set to fail (in the name of protecting American jobs and finances). Consider Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which could have taxpayers on the hook for $154 billion. Consider the backroom deals to bolster American businesses’ sales overseas.  Just what do American businesses think the government still needs to do in order to provide them with a level playing field? 

This is just a short list of the most recent and newsworthy deals measures the government has taken. I haven’t even touched on the myriad of regulations that outright make it illegal for foreign companies to encroach upon American businesses (such as the Jones act which prevents any non-American built, flagged, and crewed freight or passenger ship from transporting goods between US ports). It’s not clear that American companies actually want an open market, but it is clear that they don't mind having their own government-given advantage.

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