Lobbyists for the retailing industry are using a 1980s comedic film featuring economist Ben Stein on campaign ads designed to convince President Donald Trump that tariffs are bad and cost jobs.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) is recreating a classic scene from the 1980s movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” showing Stein lecturing high school students about tariffs and voodoo economics. NRF’s push is directed at Trump, an advocate for strict tariffs on Chinese products.
“We went back to the future and found some very effective arguments against tariffs in the movie ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and we decided to hire Ben Stein to help us deploy that message to a 21st-century audience,” David French, NRF’s senior vice president for government relations, said in a press statement announcing the ads, which will run on Fox News.
Stein, who played a small role in the movie, is seen in the ad lecturing as his class either slept or listened slack-jawed to his tariffs lecture, but he gets some answers to his questions in the new NRF ad. “What are tariffs, anyone, anyone know?” Stein asked.
One student responded: “I’m not sure but my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend brother’s girlfriend heard from an economist who said that tariffs will raise prices on everything from clothes to cars, I guess it’s pretty serious.”
Stein ended the ad on an ominous tone. “Tariffs raise taxes on hard-working Americans. It’s not complicated. Tariffs are B-A-D economics. Bad economics. Bad,” he told the students. Stein talked to his class of high school students in the film about how the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act raised tariffs on imports to ease the effects of the Great Depression.
Some economists believe the tariff act prolonged aspects of the depression, while others downplay the law’s effects. Economic historians now believe only a small part of the loss of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1930s can be ascribed to the tariff wars. Trade was only nine percent of global output, which was not enough to account for the 17 percent plummet in GDP following the crash.
NRF is dead-set on warning Trump and his voters of the economic consequences of engaging in a tariff war. Trump’s proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods would reduce U.S. economic growth by nearly $3 billion and nix more than 134,000 American jobs, according to a recent study from NRF and the Consumer Technology Association.
Trump’s announced in March a China-specific tariff plan totaling an estimated $60 billion annually, a number far beyond the $30 billion plan White House staffers presented to POTUS. The move was designed to make good on Trump’s plan to put American manufacturing first. (RELATED: REPORT: Trump Preparing To Slap $60 Billion In New Tariffs On China)
China responded shortly thereafter with a list of 106 U.S. imports it planned to slap with a 25 percent tariff. Chinese officials were not concrete about their plans, but are reportedly going to target goods, like airplanes, cars, whiskey and soybeans. (RELATED: Economists Predict Trump’s China Tariffs Will Cost 190K American Jobs)
The inclusion of soybeans in the tariffs is an example of the extent to which China is willing to fight Trump’s tariffs. The U.S. sent roughly $14.2 billion worth of soybeans to China in 2016. China was the end point destination of 61.2 percent of all U.S. soybean exports.
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