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Whirlpool’s cronyism backfires on them

16 Jul 2018

Whirlpool helped start the cronyism trade policies of the Trump Administration with their cries of unfair practices by their toughest competitors, including Samsung.  In the WSJ today (gated), we see that it hasn’t perhaps worked out the way that Whirlpool intended.  When they initially had tariffs enacted on washing machines, Marc Bitzer, the chief executive of Whirlpool Corp., celebrated his win over South Korean competitors LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics.

“This is, without any doubt, a positive catalyst for Whirlpool,” he said on an investor conference call.”

Yet, with raw materials also now subject to the tariffs, Whirlpool sees its own input costs rising, even while the higher price of washing machines is still proving the law of demand (that demand curves slope downward) and fewer washing machines are being sold at the higher prices.  This has led to a different note from Mr. Bitzer, and Whirlpool’s stock price is falling:

“There continues to be uncertainty regarding potential future tariffs and trade actions,” he said. “We’ll continue to monitor, evaluate and take the right action for our business.”

Be careful what you wish for; what comes around goes around.  Or in biblical terms, you will often reap what you sow.  Anybody else shedding crocodile tears for Whirlpool?

“We have repeatedly stated that this tariff is a tax on every washing machine buyer in the U.S.,” a Samsung spokesman said. “Since the tariff was implemented, U.S. consumers have paid more for their washing machines across all brands.”

Samsung has it right.  What Mr. Trump giveth by his tax policies, he taketh away by his tariff policies.