(Also factor in a penalty imposed on the tax dodge US corporations in determining the tariffs imposed to level the playing field. Rather than succumb to the corporations running the show, make them abide by the rules that good American companies play by. Without tariffs and penalties to tax dodging corporations, we will never have a level playing field.) AMERICA NEEDS TARIFFS By Mark Anderson âBefore the income tax was invented, the duty levied on imported goods financed almost the entire cost of Americaâs federal governmentâand as much as 80 percent of that duty came through the Port of NewYork, making the New York Custom House a major national financial power.â That is how the sign reads outside the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan, which stands as a stately symbol of what used to be the main tax for federal revenue: the tariff. For the first 125 years of these United States, there was no federal income tax but tariffs were levied on imports as a commonsense source of revenue. Ian Fletcher, an author and economist on the other side of the nation at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, talked with AFP about the hard realities of modern trade. He used to live where he had a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge. âYou could see the container ships coming inâriding very low in the waterâbecause the containers were full; the containers obviously have to go back where they came from, so the same number of boats go back,â he said. âYou see them going out of the Golden Gate Bridge riding very high in the water; the reason for that, obviously, is the United States is not exporting nearly as much as itâs importing. So these ships are going back to China and places like that half empty, sometimes entirely empty.â Fletcher, a former Wall Street economist who served hedge funds, private equity firms âand pirates like that,â as he put it, said that he wrote his new book, Free Trade Doesnât Work: Why America Needs a Tariff, because âI wanted to give something back to this country.â Interestingly, he said, âAt long last, academic economists in the universities were finally putting together the math that would enable you to prove on a very high intellectual level that free trade is the mistake that most commonsense people think it is.â He added, âSo I thought it was time that this be put before the public, because itâs something they really need to know. . . . Everyone who has looked at [the book] has liked it.â However, many diehard free-trade intellectuals are the exception. âThose guys just donât understand that ideology and economics are not the same thing,â Fletcher said of todayâs free traders, including Ludwig von Mises disciples and others cut from a similar cloth. âYou can believe in any political ideology you want . . . but economics is supposed to be a discipline of facts.â When asked how much longer âaverage Americansâ must suffer under NAFTAâa demonstrated failure first instituted in 1994âFletcher gave a startling response: âWell, I think the good news there is that the free-trade era of the United States is coming to an endââbased in part on the academic worldâs newfound realizations about free tradeâs fallacies, which may spell the beginning of the end for Americaâs modern trade regime. He added: âFree trade, although itâs a mistake, is something that can look like a good policy for nations under certain circumstances. The British thought it was really good policy around the middle of the 19th century. They adopted it, and it knocked them off their economic perch. And I think the United States is being forced to wake up. And it will be dragged, kicking and screaming, back to Americaâs traditional economic policy, which is protectionist, though a lot people donât know that.â Britain began to flirt with free trade around 1860 and eventually saw it fail. Ironically, exactly 100 years later, in 1960, America embarked down the same road, Fletcher noted. Fletcher agrees with Gus Stelzer, the late General Motors executive and trade writer, that the U.S. Constitution is a protectionist documentâthat it does not provide for neo-liberal trade policies. Fletcher said: âThe U.S. Constitution explicitly grants Congress the right âto regulate commerce with foreign nations. . . .â Thus, the constitutional framework is âblack and white,â Fletcher toldAFP, regarding the unmistakably clear protectionist provisions installed for the purpose of âordered libertyâ so Congress can set the ground rules for imposing tariffs not simply to raise revenue, but mainly to protect domestic industry. That, he said, is the ultimate goal of tariffs. The revenue is secondary. Another black-and-white itemâChinese tiresâwas addressed by Fletcher. The Obama administrationâs support of tariffs on Chinese tires and pipes is, in Fletcherâs assessment, more of a disappointment than many people may realize. âThe Chinese tire situation is pretty indicative of what he is really doing. He is making small, little adjustments here and there, like his predecessors have, to prevent anything little from blowing up into a big flashpoint. He is clearly not a protectionist. The U.S. International Trade Commission recommended a 55 percent tariff on Chinese tires; he only imposed 36 percent.â Fletcher sees this as a signal to keep the protectionists pacified but also for Obama to indicate, âFundamentally, I am a free trader.â He said Obama went on to propose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is âa whole new free trade area for the Pacific. So there is no doubt that Obama is a free trader.â Fletcher said The Wall Street Journal âwill scream its head off every time somebody imposes a 2 percent tariff on toothpicks,â yet that is mainly theatrics for the masses, since long-existing rules provide for tariffs to be imposed now and then on narrow segments of incoming goodsâif pushed hard enough by domestic interests. Butmany observers read too much into these occasional tariffs, he said. So, as AFP asked Fletcher, are these âtoken tariffsâ on Chinese tires and pipes a sign of even a small shift away from a free-trade regime? âNot even remotely,â Fletcher answered, adding that yet another turnaround on campaign promises for Obama is that, as a candidate, he said he would renegotiate NAFTA. âHe has since announced that he will not renegotiate NAFTA at all.â * Fletcher appeared on WhenWorlds Collide, Andersonâs weekly radio show, Jan. 23. See the archive at RepublicBroadcasting.org.To get a copy of his book, go to FreeTradeDoesntWork.com. Mark Anderson is a longtime newsman now working as the deputy editor for American Free Press. Together he and his wife Angie provide many photographs of the events they cover for AFP. Mark welcomes your comments and inputs as well as story leads. Email him at at email@example.com.