In re: the strangeness of tariffs

So you probably know that we in the US are part of the WTO, part of NAFTA and that we are generally liberalizing our trade (our tariffs today are really low compared to back when we were protectionist). That’s why its so crazy to learn about all the crazy distinctions in tariffs on goods imported to the US and how much various industry lobbying efforts have led to strange tariff policies. I am all for getting rid of all of these, and the more you hear how crazy they are the more I bet other folks would be. It is kinda amusing to hear about the distinctions polyester vs cotton, water resistant vs not, collared vs. non-collared, holiday/festive t-shirt vs. regular t-shirt and you wonder what impact these tariffs have on what we end up with. One of my favorites things these days is the planet money podcast — if your not listening to it, you gotta check it out, you’ll be learning all kinds of useful stuff about the economy, trade and finance and its amazingly entertaining. Anyway this topic and the strange examples above were featured in an episode of the planet money podcast where they went to a laboratory in LA that looks into what imports are made out of, going so far as to blend t-shirts, cutting apart sneakers and testing waterproofness. That and the value of putting Rudolph the red-nose reindeer (no tariffs) or for office chairs that spin and raise (no tariffs) — who knew?