Fact Checking the News: Trade wars & Obama edition

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Trump’s ‘easy’ trade war defies history

By JOSH BOAK and CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press

In agitating for a trade war, President Donald Trump may have forgotten William Tecumseh Sherman’s adage that “war is hell.”
The Civil War general’s observation can be apt for trade wars, which may create conditions for a shooting war.
A look at Trump’s spoiling-for-a-fight tweet Friday:

TRUMP: “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!”

THE FACTS: History suggests that trade wars are not easy.

The president’s argument, in essence, is that high tariffs will force other countries to relent quickly on what he sees as unfair trading practices, and that will wipe out the trade gap and create factory jobs. That’s his motivation for announcing that the U.S. will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

The record shows that tariffs, while they may help certain domestic manufacturers, can come at a broad cost. They can raise prices for consumers and businesses because companies pass on at least some of the higher costs of imported materials to their customers. Winning and losing isn’t as simple a matter as tracking the trade gap.

The State Department’s office of the historian looked at tariffs passed in the 1920s and 1930s to protect farms and other industries that were losing their markets in Europe as the continent recovered from World War I. The U.S. duties hurt Europe and made it harder for those countries to repay their war debts, while exposing farmers and consumers in the U.S. to higher prices. European nations responded by raising their tariffs and the volume of world trade predictably slowed by 1934.

The State Department says the tariffs exacerbated the global effects of the Great Depression while doing nothing to foster political or economic cooperation among countries. This was a diplomatic way of saying that the economic struggles helped embolden extremist politics and geopolitical rivalries before World War II. Nor have past protectionist measures saved the steel industry, as Trump says his tariffs would.

The United States first became a net importer of steel in 1959, when steelworkers staged a 116-day strike, according to research by Michael O. Moore, a George Washington University economist. After that, U.S. administrations imposed protectionist policies, only to see global competitors adapt and the U.S. share of global steel production decline.
State Department’s historical summary of “perils of protectionism”.   

Obama not bidding for top United Nations post

Former President Barack Obama never campaigned to become U.N. secretary-general, despite a false story claiming he had announced a bid and was consulting others. A story appearing on more than two dozen websites says Obama is seeking the job “to advance his globalist agenda on the world stage.” Obama’s office says the story is not true and he’s happy as a private citizen.

A secretary-general also generally doesn’t campaign, but has to be nominated first by the U.N. Security Council. Any one of that council’s permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) could veto the selection.
The story also incorrectly refers to Obama attempting to follow Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Ban left the post in 2016 and was succeeded by Antonio Guterres.

California won’t register to vote those in US illegally

Immigrants living in the U.S. illegally will not automatically be registered to vote in California come April, despite online stories claiming that’s the case.
At issue is a California law taking effect in April that will automatically register people to vote when they get a driver’s license, an ID card, or update their address with the Department of Motor Vehicles. California allows immigrants living in the country illegally to obtain drivers licenses, leading some websites to falsely claim they’ll be automatically signed up to vote.

California’s new program has safeguards to ensure only U.S. citizens can go through the voter registration process. A DMV worker processing a drivers’ license application for an undocumented immigrant, for example, will not be able to access the voter registration boxes, which will be greyed out.

“To be eligible, you have to be a U.S. citizen,” said Jessica Gonzalez, a DMV spokeswoman.

Trump not planning to ship Native Americans to India

President Donald Trump never proposed sending the U.S. population of about 3 million American Indians “back” to India, as a satirical news site claimed in a piece with fabricated tweets attributed to the president. (Proposals to arm guns with guns is one of the stories.)

The Postillon‘s story says Trump seeks to improve national security and was to sign an executive order to deport the country’s Native Americans. The story claimed Trump consulted with members of his administration and learned Native Americans don’t have “relevant immigration documents”. It attributes quotes Trump never said to Fox News, and fabricates two tweets from Feb. 13, 2017, about the issue that were never sent from the president’s account.

The piece is illustrated with a photo of Trump speaking last year to troops while visiting U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. The president did call at that event for more stringent screening to keep out those who “want to destroy us and destroy our country.” He said nothing about American Indians, the earliest settlers in North America. Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1924.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
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