All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Don’t Buy The Tariff Lie — Real Tax Cuts Aren’t On The Table

Fars Media Corporation. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
Fars Media Corporation. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

“If he returns to the White House,” Bloomberg reports, “Donald Trump has pledged to enact a 10% across-the-board tariff on imports that he says will raise billions of dollars in revenue to pay for more tax cuts.” He’s even floated the idea, per CNBC, of an “all tariff policy” and elimination of the federal income tax.

Think tanks of pretty much every stripe — from the “left-wing” Center for American Progress to the “centrist” Peterson Institute for International Economics to the “libertarian” Cato Institute agree: The math doesn’t work. It would take some pretty insane tariff levels to “pay for” elimination of the income tax. And you’d likely pay more in tariffs than you used to pay in income tax.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Anna Kelly wants you to believe that “the notion that tariffs are a tax on US consumers is a lie pushed by outsourcers and the Chinese Communist Party.”

She’s the one who’s lying. “Protectionism” doesn’t “protect” you — it protects the revenues of domestic businesses with friends in Washington, and it does so at the expense of anyone and everyone who buys the “protected” items.

A 60% tariff on a $1 Chinese item means you either pay $1.60 for that Chinese item … or $1.59 for the American version that used to cost $1.29 (if American companies bothered to make it at all). Tariffs make you, and foreign manufacturers, poorer so American manufacturers can get richer without having to compete for your patronage on price.

But let’s get to a bigger lie: The notion that tax cuts have to be “paid for.”

When a politician uses that phrase, he or she means that if the government isn’t taking a dollar from you, it must get that dollar somewhere else.

That’s not a “cost.” The dollar in question doesn’t belong to the government in the first place. It’s a dollar the government wants, not a dollar it has.

If I don’t break into your car and steal your stereo, I don’t have to find a way to “pay for” not having your stereo. My lack of a stereo is not a “cost” to me. It’s just you keeping what’s yours instead of me taking it.

Then there’s the biggest lie: The notion that “tax cuts” are really even on the table.

The only way for taxes to go down is for spending to go down … and the politicians bragging about “tax cut” proposals clearly have no intention of reducing their spending.

The “national debt”  stands at not quite $35 trillion, with another $2 trillion to be added this year. Every dollar of debt and deficit represents taxes the government has promised to take out of your hide, and your descendants’ hides, in perpetuity, with interest. It’s just another tax,  with payment partially deferred.

Government spending is a lot like the three-card monte card, without the prospect that you’ll even occasionally be allowed to win. And Trump’s proposals are just another variant of that game, not a plan to reduce the amount he and his cronies steal from you.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Why Does the US Want a Nuclear-Armed Iran?

US president Donald Trump announces that the US doesn't keep its agreements -- May 8, 2018. Public domain.
US president Donald Trump announces that the US doesn’t keep its agreements — May 8, 2018. Public domain.

“A major expansion underway inside Iran’s most heavily protected nuclear facility could soon triple the site’s production of enriched uranium,” the Washington Post reports. That expansion “could allow Iran to accumulate several bombs’ worth of nuclear fuel every month.”

Even if the reportage is accurate, two questions loom large.

First: Do the Iranians want to join the nuclear weapons club?

The answer seems to be “no.”

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — whose orders constitute the regime’s policy — has long held that “the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.”

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirms that position, reporting that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that would be necessary to produce a testable nuclear device.”

Second: Why is the US regime’s policy clearly oriented toward changing Iran’s mind on the acquisition of nuclear weapons?

For all its panic-mongering over the prospect of a nuclear Iran, there’s only been a short period over the last quarter century when the panic actually got addressed — the period of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the “Iran nuclear deal.”

As a Non-Proliferation Treaty member state, Iran has seemingly kept its nuclear activities within the limits required by that treaty, as verified by International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

But for a decade or so leading up to the JCPOA, the US wanted more restrictions on those activities, as a condition of lifting sanctions. Every time the Iranians agreed, the US backed out, demanding even more.

Then came the JCPOA in 2015. The Iranians  finally offered enough in the way of concessions above and beyond the NPT guidelines that Barack Obama couldn’t find credible way to kick out. And so it went — even more inspections, even more compliance with US demands, and minimal sanctions relief.

Until Donald Trump claimed, in 2018, to have “withdrawn” the US from the JCPOA (something he had no power to do without also withdrawing from the United Nations, as the JCPOA is a UN Security Council resolution binding on all UN member states).

Joe Biden ran for president on a promise to bring the US back into compliance with the JCPOA, then broke that promise and continued piling sanctions back on.

So the Iranians went back to expanding refinement of uranium — remaining within NPT limits and proposing to return to JCPOA limits any time the US decides to stop messing around and keep up its end of the deal.

QED, it is the US regime, not the Iranian regime, which wants the Iranian regime to withdraw from the NPT and build The Bomb.

That might not be such a bad thing. An Iranian nuclear deterrent could match Israel’s rogue nuclear threat, creating a more stable, less war-prone balance of power in the region.

But why not just say so instead of playing the “we don’t REALLY want what we’re CLEARLY pursuing” game?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


All Vivek Murthy Wants for Christmas is a Label Maker

Dymo embossing label maker circa 1967

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms,” Vivek Murthy writes in a New York Times op-ed, “stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents.”

An incredibly dumb idea, but it enjoys a certain amount of public attention because Vivek Murthy’s day job is with the federal government  as (checks notes) surgeon general.

If Murthy wants a “warning label” on something, why not just order it instead of whining about it in the Times? Two reasons:

The first is that he can’t just order it. The office of surgeon general doesn’t come with a label maker. He only gets one if Congress gives him one.

The other is that his op-ed isn’t about “protecting children” or “the public health.” It’s about grandstanding on a current moral panic so as to associate the name “Vivek Murthy,” in the public consciousness, with “protecting children” and “the public health.”

As his second surgeon general stint likely nears its end, Murthy’s obviously trying to burnish his “public intellectual” credentials for a more successful return to the not-so-private sector. Instead of reprising his previous four years in the TV talking head / non-fiction book authorship (Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World) wilderness between the Obama and Biden administrations, he’s presumably hoping for a steadier gig with a larger paycheck — at MSNBC, perhaps, or CNN.

“Protecting children” and “the public health” are to political demagoguery as Gallagher’s tricycle or Steve Martin’s “arrow through the head” are to stand-up comedy.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you one looks at it, “warning labels” do little to discourage, and may even encourage, the behaviors they “warn” about.

I started smoking as a teen, a couple of decades after Congress let the surgeon general Luther Terry borrow its label maker for use on cigarettes in 1964. The next person I meet who’s my age and claims to have never taken up smoking because of those warning labels will be the first. Ineffectual.

As for encouragement, anyone paying attention knows that kids actively seek out music, movies, etc. with “mature content” warning labels. Those labels essentially serve as “this is the good stuff” advertising for the products they appear on.

The only valuable prospective use for “warning labels” on social media platforms is as an “I made that happen” item on Murthy’s resume. Kids looking for an “I’m edgy” thrill would treat the “warning labels” as endorsements; parents inclined to panic over their kids’ use of TikTok or Instagram would do so with or without Murthy’s assistance.

In the meantime, there’s that pesky constitutional prohibition on compelled speech. Congress shouldn’t ignore it, but probably will.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.