RFK Jr. Champions Economic Populism: Protect American Workers with Tariffs

Democrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is championing a populist-nationalist approach to the United States economy, vowing to impose tariffs on foreign imports to protect American workers and industries from unfair trade competition.

In a series of Twitter posts, Kennedy detailed the nation’s growing wealth inequalities whereby the very top earners — many of which are billionaires — have seen their share of income grow exponentially while the share of income among working- and middle-class Americans has steadily declined.

The breakdown of unions — in part, as a result of decades-long job-killing free trade policies — has coincided with growing income inequalities, Kennedy noted.

“The top share of income going to the top 10% has increased from 35% in 1945 to more than 45% today. Union membership has declined in the same period from 33% to about 10% — its lowest level since the 1930s,” he wrote on Twitter:

From the end of WWII through the 1980s, income distribution stayed relatively constant. But union membership began declining, and the share of income going to the bottom 90% followed it. Capitalism only functions equitably if workers have the collective bargaining power of unions, so they can claim a fair share of the economic pie. [Emphasis added]

In terms of countering the decline of working- and middle-class income growth, Kennedy said the U.S. ought to impose tariffs on foreign imports to protect its workforce and domestic industries from widespread offshoring of American jobs at the hands of multinational corporations.

“As President, I will protect American labor AND American industry,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “One thing I will consider: tariffs on imports from countries that allow exploitation of workers. American industries should not be forced to offshore to low-wage areas as nations compete with each other to sacrifice wages and working conditions in a ‘race to the bottom.’”

While free trade and trade deficits have eliminated millions of American jobs, devastating working- and middle-class communities, tariffs would likely drive up domestic production, increase wages, and reshore jobs to the U.S., research has shown.

A recent study from economists at the Coalition for a Prosperous America, for instance, finds that tariffs on nearly all foreign imports would create about ten million American jobs while boosting domestic output.

As Kennedy mentioned, middle-class wealth has dropped to a historic low.

The middle class, as of 2021, includes 77.5 million U.S. households with an annual income of $27,000 to $141,000. In October 2021, Breitbart News reported the top one percent of income earners in the U.S. now hold more wealth than the entire American middle class.

Specifically, the middle class has seen its share of national wealth plummet to just 26.6 percent while the top one percent’s share of wealth has grown to 27 percent — the first time in U.S. history that the top one percent’s share of wealth has outpaced the middle class’s share of wealth.

 

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