2018-03-29 / Views

Only government coffers helped by newsprint tax

We’ve ignored the subject of newsprint tariffs until now, figuring that complaining would be characterized as self serving.

Perhaps that’s so. We’ve asked the Trump administration to slap tariffs on cherry juice imports from Eastern European countries that, we believe, have subsidized a product to take advantage of a market county growers taxed themselves to build.

So how can tariffs that would ultimately raise the price of cherry concentrate be good for the county in that case, but bad when they raise the price of newsprint that serves as the lifeblood of the county newspaper?

The truth is that all tariffs simultaneously help and hurt America. The hurt usually comes first in the form of higher prices and inflation. But America is boosted if tariffs revitalize industries essential for our long-term need to compete in the world market.

For instance, tariffs placed on imported cherry juice are needed to keep farmers in Leelanau County in business. Prices have been slipping, and we’re one bumper crop away from many calling it quits.

While the Enterprise will soon feel the short-term hurt from newsprint tariffs of up to 22 percent, we’re having a difficult time understanding the long-range goal.

U.S. paper mills are already running at 97 percent capacity, causing American newspapers to purchase newsprint from Canada. And given that the newsprint market in America has fallen from 16 million metric tons in the 1990s to about 4 million tons, we doubt that paper companies are planning to build new factories.

Most of that fallen market can be attributed to decay within the major daily newspaper market, which has attempted to shift to digital products. Print remains the core business for healthy community newspapers including the Leelanau Enterprise. According to the National Newspaper Association, “without print, there is no online news from the local newspapers.”

The tariffs arose from a complaint filed by a single newsprint producer in Washington State. The Commerce Department is investigating, but apparently sees no need to hurry as tariff revenues are already pouring into the U.S. Treasury.

Tariffs will not help U.S. paper producers, but they will result in job losses within the newspaper industry. Perhaps that’s why the industry organization for U.S. paper producers, the American Forest and Paper Association, does not support a complaint filed by one of it’s own members.

Luckily we received a newsprint shipment just as the tariffs became effective.

Our next shipment is sure to be expensive. In the long run we’ll survive, as we have since 1887.

And that’s not “fake news.”

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