By: Daily News Editorial Board
(May 12, 2018)
Texas Sen. John Cornyn deserves thanks and support for having the courage to stand up against an ill-conceived and narrowly beneficial tariff on Canadian paper and standing up for the best interests of the U.S. paper industry, the U.S. publishing industry and about 600,000 U.S. workers whose jobs are threatened by an unnecessary act of protectionism.
As we reported Thursday, Cornyn spoke against the tariff last week during an appearance at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting May 4 in Dallas.
“Newspapers are beleaguered already, and I don’t think we need to make that any harder than it already is,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn told the The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday that the public having access to “well-researched and reported information” is a “foundational element” of democracy.
But while the financial pressure of the tariff on U.S. newspapers is substantial, that’s only part of the story.
In fact, it’s hard to find anybody other than the hedge-fund managers at New York-based One Rock Capital Partners, who own North Pacific Paper Co., who’s informed about the issue and still supports a U.S. Department of Commerce decision to impose a tariff of more than 20 percent on Canadian paper.
The U.S. newsprint industry opposes the tariff because people running that industry understand the tariff will do them a lot of harm and no good. They understand that the domestic paper industry is suffering from declining demand caused by a shift to digital publishing, along with attrition and production cutbacks among publishing companies, not because of imported paper.
They understand the tariff will drive some of their customers out of business and force an even greater share of their market to use less of what they have to sell.
Firms servicing both the newsprint and the publishing industries oppose the tariff for the same reasons.
Laymen supporters of the tariff, many of whom are motivated by an ideologically based disdain for journalism and an undiscerning support for a pro-tariff president, like to argue the duties on Canadian paper will benefit U.S. workers.
That’s false. Firms opposing the tariff employ about 600,000 Americans, according to a broad-based coalition working to roll back the Commerce Department’s decision. North Pacific, called Norpac, employs less than 300.
No one in any of the affected industries believes the tariff will revitalize domestic paper production, while everyone in those industries understands it will have the opposite effect.
There’s no doubt that we have a deeply vested interest in this issue, but so do you, whether you realize it or not.
Print journalism subsidizes all journalism, either in terms of advertising revenue, content production or both. If you saw something interesting or informative on TV or, especially, on the internet, the chances are about 99 percent that it appeared first in print somewhere.
We believe it’s impossible to build good communities without independent sources of good, reliable local information. In the small cities and towns that make up most of this county, that service is provided exclusively by newspapers. Those small operators are the first and hardest hit by the tariff.
If you believe the same, it’s time to stand up and say so, as Cornyn and dozens of other members of Congress from both parties have done.