Today I want to share a NY Times article written about a tariff on Chinese solar panels imported to the US. It was rewritten by Mark Perry, an economics professor and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Perry’s full article can be found below, for our purposes I’ll share the opening paragraphs and break down exactly what he’s doing. First, the paragraphs as the NYT wrote them:
The Commerce Department issued its final ruling Wednesday in a long-simmering trade dispute with China, imposing tariffs ranging from about 24 to nearly 36 percent on most solar panels imported from the country.
The penalties are somewhat lower than those announced by the department earlier this year, when the government determined that Chinese companies were benefiting from unfair government subsidies and were selling their products in the United States below the cost of production, a practice known as dumping.
Now the paragraphs as Perry wrote them:
The Commerce Department issued its final ruling Wednesday in a long-simmering trade dispute with China, imposing
tariffs taxes on American consumers and solar-installation companies ranging from about 24 to nearly 36 percent on most solar panels imported from the country China, in order to protect domestic producers from foreign competition.
The penalties on American consumers are somewhat lower than those announced by the department earlier this year, when the government determined that Chinese companies American consumers were benefiting from
unfair government subsidies from Chinese citizens and were selling their benefiting from purchasing Chinese products in the United States below the cost of production, a practice known as dumping . “giving American consumers a great deal.”
Do you see what he’s doing? He’s pointing out the very real scenario that the Commerce Department approved the tariffs and what that means for consumers. A tariff on imported goods raises the prices of those goods. That means in order to buy cheaper solar panels (and the Chinese panels cost much less) you have to pay an extra tax to the government.
It was determined that the Chinese government was subsidizing Chinese manufacturers to make their products cheaper. The end result, as Perry points out, is Chinese taxpayers are directly making solar panels cheaper for Americans. But because some American businesses didn’t think that was fair they asked the American government to help protect their industry. Keep in mind that through various programs our government helps American solar companies with our tax dollars.
The article goes on to note that the Chinese have managed to have competitive prices thanks to an aggressive ramping up of production and achieving economies of scale. The Americans haven’t been able to keep up. The NYT doesn’t note that these reduced costs save Americans tons of money.
Is this article guilty of showing a bias towards one view or the other? Not really. And Perry is taking some editorial liberties to allow a bit of his own bias to show through. But, there is more than one way to report the news and Perry does a good, and entertaining, job of helping us read between the lines.