Quotes of the Day: Border Tax Winners and Losers

Like virtually any other government proposal, Congress’s “Border Adjustment Tax”, in terms of its ultimate impact on U.S. individuals and institutions, is, at best, difficult for discerning folks to frame. I have to qualify with “discerning” because of course there are those who immediately presume that taxing foreign imports is good because “they do it us”, “it’ll inspire us to buy American”, “it’ll create jobs” and so on. Of course if all that were true, it would be reality, as opposed to what it’s mostly been for eons — campaign-stump rhetoric. In reality, there’s much more negative potential and, therefore, political risk than meets the eye. 


Without delving into currency fluctuations, retaliation from foreign trading partners, crony capitalism, etc., one way to handicap who the winners and losers of the taxing of imports by 20% would be is to simply look at the players who are for and against it. 


Keep in mind, the U.S. — with two-thirds of its GDP owing to consumer spending — is a resoundingly consumer-driven economy. 


Here’s what Americans for Affordable Products (a coalition of 120 retailers [make their money via the consumer], which includes the likes of Best Buy, Dollar General, Macy’s, Rite Aid and Walmart) think of the proposal:

We oppose any border adjustment tax (BAT) because it will increase the cost of clothing, food, medicine, gas, and other essential items that Americans rely on,” the group says on its website. “Consumers shouldn’t bear the burden of this new tax while some corporations get a tax break.

And here’s from a Knowledge at Wharton interview with Wharton’s own Ann Harrison and Penn Law’s Michael Knoll:

… big exporters, including technology companies and large industrial companies like General Electric could have nil or even negative tax liability, he said. Indeed the chief executives from 16 companies, including GE, Oracle and Pfizer, sent a letter to congressional leaders this week in support of the GOP tax plan.

Careful what you ask for…


P.s., I feel the need to qualify the “winners” column: The advocating by the GEs, etc., is, in my view, simply the result of CEO myopia (fixation on near-term quarterly earnings results). The ultimate ramifications of hammering the U.S. consumer to maybe balance Washington’s this or that has to ultimately bode poorly for the would-be-winner as well.

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