Should Americans Kick Shoe Tariffs?

nike-rereleases-forrest-gump-nike-cortez-colorway-2-202x300Last year, Nike brought back their Air Cortez sneaker in the White/Varsity Royal-Varsity Red color scheme– the very same style Tom Hanks was seen donning in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump. Producing this shoe is incredibly labor-intensive– its leather stitching, exposed padding on the nylon tongue, and crisp white laces have undoubtedly been produced in one of hundreds of Nike’s manufacturing plants outside of the United States. However, a significant portion of what consumers pay for when purchasing shoes like the “Forrest Gump sneaker” go not only towards manufacturing costs, wages, and shipping, but also tariffs and shoe taxes. Unbeknownst to many, outdated shoe tariffs have been contributing to the rising costs of shoes and have led to many Americans, like Forrest Gump, running their shoes into the ground.

With a globalized economy and companies increasingly outsourcing plants to take advantage of cheaper labor, brands produced in the United States have difficulty competing with low prices. In order to counter the low costs of the textiles and apparel imports, the United States government has imposed tariffs of up to 67.5 percent compared to an average 1.4 percent on most other goods to protect the United States’ dwindling domestic manufacturing supply chain (The Hill). However, with only one percent of shoes manufactured in the United States, American consumers could be the ones suffering the burden through unnecessarily high costs of shoes.

The shoe tariff was created in 1930, when the United States boasted a large domestic footwear manufacturing base (The Hill) that needed protection from foreign companies. Back then, footwear manufacturing was even more labor intensive than it is now, with each stitch handmade and leather meticulously done. Numerous European craftsmen brought with them knowledge and credibility in the art of shoemaking, which helped the United States manufacturing base flourish. Since the rapid globalization of the shoe industry, cheaper labor across seas made manufacturing in the United States less practical. Today, European shoemakers are not competing with the United States for shoe manufacturing, but counterfeits and cheaper goods from countries like Vietnam and China.

Generally, imposing high tariffs are meant as a supportive measure for the domestic manufacturing market. Raising prices of incoming goods keeps prices competitive for imports and domestic products, thereby encouraging United States consumers to continue supporting the United States economy on a local level. In the United States, over 99 percent of shoes are imported, mostly from Asia (Wall Street Journal). However, these tariffs still exist to protect the remaining one percent, whilst most Americans cannot name one American shoe companies manufactured in the United States.

An example of a company benefitting from the high tariffs is New Balance, an American sneaker company, and one of the last to continue manufacturing in the United States. Even New Balance, however, says that it is struggling to keep manufacturing in the United States. Though Robert DeMartini, CEO of New Balance, insists on keeping manufacturing in the United States, stating that New Balance’s U.S. plants are “twice as effective” as Asian plants, and that “we learned a lot because we had to in order to survive” (Wall Street Journal), the company is still facing difficulties to keep work at home. Manufacturing in the United States costs 25 to 35 percent more than to manufacture abroad in Asia (Daily News), and a majority of New Balance’s shoes have parts manufactured outside of the United States. In fact, the company manufactures two-thirds of its shoes across waters and relies heavily on machinery in order to keep costs low. Though the main argument for maintaining the high shoe tariffs is to keep manufacturing jobs at home, are they simply supporting jobs that we can no longer afford to keep in the United States?

Nike is one company protesting the high tariffs. Nike claims that current money going towards tariffs and taxes could go towards research and development advancing sustainability and innovation. The company argues that lowering tariffs can actually increase manufacturing jobs in the United States by allowing the company to develop advanced manufacturing methods that would make keeping jobs in the U.S. more practical. However, many Americans are skeptical of Nike’s promises to create jobs if tariffs are cut, especially as the company continues to move jobs overseas. Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, is one skeptic. She says, “Nike’s job creation claim mimics the broken job creation promises that multinational corporations have used to push for past controversial trade pacts, only to turn around and offshore U.S. jobs after the pacts took effect” (NPR). Though Nike is viewed as having the financial and political backing to end shoe tariffs in the United States, the reality is that many Americans would rather trust a company like New Balance on an issue concerning American jobs due to its positive association of being made by Americans, for Americans.

footwear-tariff-pic-impacting-childrens-shoes-1024x829The 99 percent of shoes manufactured abroad pay a significant portion of their budget towards shoe taxes, which in turn ups the prices of shoes for unsuspecting Americans. Shoe tariffs are enforced based on shoe classification, which are assigned in a complicated process based on the shoe material, function, target gender, size, construction, and value. Generally, shoes that are more likely to have been produced through cheap, foreign labor have a higher tariff imposed. These shoe tariffs range from zero percent for men’s golf shoes, to 84 percent for cheap sandals and are implemented by volume, per shoe (Harmonized Tariff Schedule). Annually, these shoe tariffs provide an additional 2.7 billion dollars for Congress (NPR). Because most Americans purchase 7.3 pairs of shoes annually each regardless of age, the estimated 2.4 billion dollars that Americans could be saving according to industry analysis could be going towards other household expenses.

Due to the fact that shoe tariffs disproportionately affect prices on the cheapest shoes to manufacture — children’s shoes and low-cost-to-produce sneakers, the Americans hit hardest by shoe tariffs are often those who cannot afford to pay the extra costs. According to Economist Bryan Riley, shoe tariffs increase costs of the cheapest shoes by about one-third. For example, if shoe tariffs were removed on a $10 shoe, they would be reduced by $3. This in turn impacts how families living paycheck-to-paycheck end up spending money in other household necessities like groceries. Purchasing goods and services to support their children and their family’s health are affected unnecessarily.

Though the 1930s shoe tariffs were intended to protect the United States shoe manufacturing industry, the tariff is now outdated as American manufacturing work has since traveled overseas. Americans are left paying the costs of keeping a slim number of manufacturing jobs at home. Most Americans are unaware of the shoe tariffs, and with companies like Nike and New Balance arguing both sides of whether or not to keep them, Americans who are informed are decidedly split on the issue. As tariffs come to the forefront of politics, it will be interesting to see whether or not Americans decide to kick the tariffs costing them so much.


New Balance Opposes Push to End U.S. Shoe Tariffs

Importing Shoes : HTS Shoe Import Duty and Shoe Tariffs

The Economy and a Pair of Shoes

War Crime to Business Model: The Bloody Business of Arms Trade


Armed conflict has been responsible for more than 231 million deaths in the last century. The nature of the arms trade has intensified this conflict (A.B., The Economist).

The line between the formal arms trade and the black market is entirely ambiguous. Lax enforcement has contributed to unfathomable human suffering and violence throughout the globe. Often there is a relationship between a country’s department of defense and major arms producers as well as a relationship between their intelligence community and illegal dealers.


The last figures on the arms trade, recorded in 2003, show that it is liable for 40% of all corruption in world trade. Corruption that is systematic and perpetuated by leading nations. In 2006, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair halted an investigation into the largest-ever arms deal, the al-Yamamah deal, which began under Prime Minister Margret Thatcher’s government in the late-1980s. The deal between the UK and Saudi Arabia was estimated around $7.4 billion in commissions paid on the deal alone. Mark Thatcher, the Prime Minister’s son, allegedly made 14.8 million as a broker on the deal (Castle, Independent).

Similar controversies and questions over corruption have been raised in the United States. For instance, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the CEO of Halliburton before taking office. Halliburton [and its subsidiary KBR, Inc.], is a name practically synonymous with war profiteering, acquiring billions of dollars in new business thanks to non-existent weapons of mass destruction and U.S. noncompetitive government contracting-practices. Due in part to a consolidation trend during the 1990s, the company is one of the 5 largest firms in the US, which account for 44% of the industry’s market share. Not to mention that campaign contributions on behalf of private defense contractors are large enough to keep many lawmakers in complacent support of costly militaristic projects (A.B., The Economist).

After 9/11, private military contracts in the US rose from $145 billion in 2001 to $390 billion by 2008 under the Bush administration (Lawson).

Political will and greater transparency are viable conduits in reducing the corruption that lie within the arms trade market. The UN has attempted to do something about it putting forth a global Arms Trade Treaty [ATT] approved by over 150 countries in April of 2013. The treaty went into action in December of 2014 and prohibits arms trade that would facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It continues to grapple with the regulation of international trade of conventional weapons and countries like the US and UK, which both spend considerably large amounts on defense budgets, have failed to ratify the treaty.


The United States military spending, at $598.5 billion, accounted for 54% of the nation’s spending in 2015. That’s approximately $2000 for every US citizen, in one year alone. The US is also a top supplier of major conventional weapons trading 31% share of the global arms exports to ally nations. Arms exporters commonly only consider the impact of exporting on their own welfare and fail to consider the impact and possible negative externalities that may arise from trading with another nation. Other abstainers include China and Russia, major arms exporters and importers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt (A Killer Deal, The Economist).

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” – Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower


Wars have a dirty habit of making companies and private interest groups billions of dollars. Maintaining a highly militarized defense industry will continue to remain vogue as long as there are profits to be made.



The economics of arms trade and arms control – University of Kent

Brexit and Breadwinners: What leaving the EU means the future of the UK workforce

Behind the Vote

Brexit. A term that filled newsrooms, Facebook feeds, and local pubs all summer long.

It’s the word that became a reality on June 23rd, 2016, when the UK voted to revoke its membership from the European Union with a 52% majority vote. The decision sent shockwaves around the world, as countries questioned what the future of Europe would look like. With such a slim victory margin from the “Leave” campaign, the decision was highly controversial and has continued to cause political, social, and economic anxiety in the months since.

The official campaign for Britain was called Vote Leave, and was built on the notion that the UK had to leave the EU in order to protect its borders, strengthen its economy, and increase employment and wages for British nationals. Immigration was one of the most important components of the Vote Leave campaign, as proponents argued that until the UK had full control of its own immigration policy, it would not be able to handle the influx of European immigrants that arrive each year. However, according to the Office for National Statistics, of the 636,000 people who immigrated to the UK in 2015 only 270,000 were EU citizens. “Leave” voters also argued that immigrants were driving down wages in certain sectors and taking away many low-level jobs from British workers.

As for the economy, “Leave” voters claimed that Britain’s ties to the EU were preventing it from formulating trade relationships in emerging markets, such as China and India, where there is no major trade deal at present. Furthermore, these voters argued that leaving the EU would not affect London’s position as one of the world’s leading financial centers nor would banks relocate their headquarters. This is largely because Britain has very low corporate tax rates. Lastly, the Vote Leave campaign argued that an exit from the EU would mean that UK tax payers would no longer have to subsidize and bail out European countries that use the Euro and already have a majority in the Union. Instead, this money would be used to fund and support domestic issues such as the education system, NHS, and affordable subsidized housing.


“Remain” voters, however, argued that Brexit would seriously hurt UK trade levels and foreign direct investment. These voters believed that a decision to leave could prove extremely challenging for the UK, as it would sever the existing economic, social, and political relationships that it had with many EU nations. As for the question of jobs, the “Remain” side claimed that around three million jobs were linked to the EU which, if taken away, would destabilize the economy. Additionally, “Remain” voters insisted that businesses would be less likely to invest in the UK if they were not in the EU. This would be extremely disruptive because, according to a report by the Bank of England, foreign direct investment accounted for 10% of UK’s assets and liabilities in 2015 equaling around £10.6 trillion ($13.1M). The feeling of uncertainty surrounding Brexit was clearly felt in the UK’s financial market in the months leading up to the vote, as the Financial Times reported that UK investment declined by 2.1% in the final three months of 2015, despite growing by an average of 1.4% in the previous quarter.


 UK Job Market on the Ballot

 The implications of Brexit on the workforce was a key issue heading into the vote. Many economists argued that a decision to leave would trigger an economic downturn in the UK which could significantly weaken the British pound and lower employment levels. The British Treasury released a report in May 2016, which claimed that if Brexit were to happen, unemployment would be 520,000 higher, wages 2.8% lower and house prices 10% down. These statistics demonstrate why there was a high anxiety throughout the UK, as economists and citizens alike were trying to predict what the future of the UK may or may not look like.









However, because no other country had left the EU before there was no precedent for economists to compare the UK with. This meant that many of the arguments from both sides involved an element of speculation.

When the European Union was formed, it was created with the idea that there would be “free movement of labor” across all member nations. This meant that any citizen of the EU would be able to travel to Britain and seek employment without any formal job offer. Therefore, “Leave” voters viewed Brexit as an opportunity to gain back the jobs given to those immigrants and to increase national employment levels. According to research by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, as of June 2016, there were 2.2 million EU workers in the UK composing for 6.6% of the total workforce.

The referendum drove voters to ask serious questions about long-term job security and availability. Would Brexit make it easier for young people to find jobs in the UK? Would wages increase as the result of a decreased supply of labor? What would happen to those jobs of migrants forced to leave? Where will the UK stand in terms of the international workplace?

Some economists predicted that in the short term, companies would choose to either transition their operations overseas or put a hold on hiring new employees until there was more economic certainty. The “Leave” campaigners argued that certain sector jobs, previously given to migrants, would now be available to British nationals.

However, there is very little evidence proving that immigration lowers wages or increases unemployment. According to Jonathan Wadsworth, an economist at the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, he says: “there is still no evidence of an overall negative impact of immigration on jobs or wages.” His claim was further supported research published by the UK Office for Budget Responsibility in 2015, which found that there was a small negative effect of migration on wages of workers in the semi-skilled and unskilled service sector such as shop assistants and restaurant and bar workers.


But do UK nationals really want those jobs?

While many argue that that Brexit will supply a large number of low-level jobs for UK nationals, the question must be asked of whether or not people are actually going to be willing to take them.

As seen below, EU workers are predominantly industry based with the manufacturing, retail, and health services accounting for the largest number of workers. Because the UK relies heavily on migrants to fill these low-skilled roles, the vote brought anxiety to employers in these industries, as they had to determine whether or not they will be able to fulfil their quotas if their workers were to be deported because of Brexit. While “Leave” campaigners argued that British nationals would seek these jobs if the referendum happened, “Remain” voters countered this by saying that British workers had not sought out these jobs before… so why would they now?


Amy Smith, a student at the University of Sheffield, expressed her concern, saying:

“Having grown up in Germany, I witnessed the benefits of immigration first-hand. Immigrants are vital for filling the low level positions German natives are less willing to take. I think the UK needs to recognize that the same implications can and will happen here.”

This issue was further discussed by economist Jonathan Porte, who described the demand for immigrant jobs as not being just a zero-sum game. In an article published by the Guardian he explained, “it’s true that, if an immigrant takes a job, then a British worker can’t take that job – but it doesn’t mean he or she won’t find another one that may have been created, directly or indirectly, as a result of immigration.”

Porte’s argument stands exactly opposite to that of the Vote Leave campaign, as he argues that a rejuvenation in the UK workforce will not occur simply by deporting migrants. Rather, it will happen with innovation and the exchange of ideas – which are a direct result of migration.


 Current State of the Workforce

 It has been four months since the vote, and economic numbers are showing more promise than expected. Although there was fear from the ‘remain’ voters that a decision to leave the EU would cause widespread job losses, economic data following Brexit is saying the opposite.


October figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK unemployment rate remains steady at 4.9%, its lowest rate since 2005. According to the Guardian, this number remained unchanged since August, despite a 10,000 increase in unemployment.

Furthermore, the employment rate has remained at a record high of 74.5%. However, employment growth slowed from 173,000 in the three months leading up to July to 106,000 in August, with a large proportion of these being part-time workers.

So with these economic forces showing positive signs for the UK, does this mean that the workforce still has to worry?

Maybe not so fast.

While UK employment continues to rise, the country has seen a sharp rise in inflation which poses a major threat to job levels and wages. According to the ONS report, the UK’s inflation rate increased from 0.6% in August to 1% in September – the highest it has been since November 2014.

The issue of inflation is further exacerbated by the decreased value of the pound, which hit a new 31-year low against the dollar in October, and now exchanges at $1.22. This is largely driven by the uncertainty surrounding the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, as financial markets lack confidence in the UK’s long term economic prospects.

An increase in inflation could potentially affect the UK’s unemployment rate going forward, as market anxiety can lead to decreased investment and lower economic growth in the workforce.

Furthermore, because the drop in the pound’s value has increased the cost of imports for British manufactures, certain sector jobs may be taken away as companies adjust to higher costs and decreased demand for goods.

But for now, until an official decision is made on Brexit’s terms, workers and immigrants across the UK must patiently wait… and hope that the decision to leave didn’t take their jobs with them.