What to do? One strategy for Made in America Shirt Co. and its workers is to get Washington to enact measures restricting consumer choices. But you have to be slick about it. You just can't ask President Bush and Congress to criminalize purchases from U-Needa Shirt Co. You must make a pretense of selflessness and speak of national defense concerns like, "What if there were war and we had no shirts for our soldiers?" You must talk of being for free trade but fair trade and level playing fields.
There's another strategy. Suppose Made in America Shirt Co. could cover all of its cost with a $20 shirt price, while U-Needa Shirt could do so by charging $15? Made in America Shirt might ask Congress to enact an Aid to Dependent American Shirt Manufacturers law, whereby it would receive a $5 per shirt handout -- then it could meet U-Needa Shirt Co.'s price.
That might not be politically viable because the handout is too visible. Congress might propose, "Rather than giving you a $5 per shirt handout, how about if we impose a $5 per shirt import tax on U-Needa Shirt Co.'s shirts? Then they'll have to charge $20. That way, you get what you want -- a level playing field -- we get more tax dollars, and nobody's the wiser."
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