Your editorial (TNT, 8-20) regarding the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) was way off the mark. The editorial board is certainly correct when it states that the HMT harms Washington’s (and America’s) economy. But the proposal being pushed by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell would make the problem worse, not better.
If the Murray-Cantwell proposal to extend the HMT to freight entering by land took effect, some shipping companies – most likely the ones with deeper pockets – would sullenly comply. But other companies – most likely smaller shipping companies without ample money and connections – would instead think twice before shipping to the U.S. This means fewer goods in America and less money invested in our economy.
Instead of replacing the HMT with something more ruinous, which is what the Murray-Cantwell bill will do, we should do the opposite: Eliminate it. Your own editorial demonstrates that a lack of an HMT is not hurting Canada’s economy and, in fact, is likely helping it greatly.
Moreover, if this proposal takes effect, there’s a solid chance the Canadian government will retaliate with a similar restriction on U.S. cargo entering Canada. This idea may sound crazy, but no less than Canada’s current prime minister suggested such a thing could happen back in 2009, when he fought against a proposal pushed by President Obama and Congress that would have hurt U.S.-Canadian trade.
When it comes to trade policy, Washington’s senators would be wise to heed the words of Princeton economist Burton G. Malkiel: “Beggar-thy-neighbor policies create more beggars and hostile neighbors.”