“Buy American,” like protectionism generally, can protect some blue-collar jobs — but at a steep price: A Peterson Institute for International Economics study concludes that it costs taxpayers $250,000 annually for each job saved in a protected industry. And lots of white-collar jobs are created for lawyers seeking waivers from the rules. And for accountants tabulating U.S. content in this and that, when, say, an auto component might cross international borders (U.S., Canadian, Mexican) five times before it is ready for installation in a vehicle.
In the usual braying-and-pouting choreography of the State of the Union evening, members of the president’s party leap ecstatically when he praises himself, and members of the other party respond sullenly, by not responding. This year, however, something unusual happened when President Biden vowed to “require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America.” A bipartisan ovation greeted his promise to reduce the purchasing power of tax dollars spent on infrastructure projects by raising the cost of materials.