Forget Russia; worry about imports.
Let's get this straight: We have Russians hacking their way through our elections and knocking on our electric grids, as well as new nuclear threats flying after a canceled U.S./North Korea nuclear summit. But President Donald Trump wants to put a 25 percent tax on car imports — citing national security.
We are not the only folks raising eyebrows at Trump's request that the Commerce Department launch an investigation into the "national threat" of imported automobiles, trucks and auto parts — a first step toward imposing tariffs, according to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
The Wall Street Journal reported the 25 percent figure, which totaled $176 billion in 2017. That's far larger than the duties of about $30 billion for steel and $18 billion for aluminum that Trump proposed some months ago.
"If these reports are true, it's a bad day for American consumers," John Bozzella, CEO of Global Automakers, said in a statement. "The U.S. auto industry is thriving and growing. Thirteen, soon to be 14 companies, produced nearly 12 million cars and trucks in America last year. To our knowledge, no one is asking for this protection. This path leads inevitably to fewer choices and higher prices for cars and trucks in America."
It might also be a bad day for Tennesseans, and both of the Volunteer State's Republican senators, as well as the governor, are crying foul loudly.
The higher tariffs on steel and aluminum already had raised concerns here. Auto manufacturing factories power Tennessee's $322 billion economy, particularly auto parts plants, as well as General Motors, Nissan and our own Volkswagen vehicle assembly plant.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is not prone to criticizing the Trump administration, said foreign auto tariffs would "destroy" Tennessee's "thriving automotive industry."
"Forty years ago, I helped convince Nissan to build here what they sell here — they built a plant in Smyrna, others followed, and today one-third of Tennessee's manufacturing jobs are auto related, 967 foreign based businesses employ more than 140,000 Tennesseans, and we have more than 900 automotive suppliers in 88 of our 95 counties.
"Tariffs on the imports of cars and auto parts will not put our workers first by making it more expensive to build and sell cars here," Alexander continued. "They will destroy the thriving automotive industry that has been built by thousands of skilled Tennessee workers."
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is equally unhappy with Trump's newest announcement, labeling it an abuse of authority and a political ploy.
"I am very concerned about the president abusing the authorities granted to him in Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962," Corker said in a statement. "There is no reason to use this provision to consider imposing tariffs on the automobile industry, and this appears to be either an attempt to affect domestic politics ahead of the election or for some other transactional purpose regarding ongoing trade discussions. This is a dangerous course and should be abandoned immediately."