And he took a small step toward ensuring Washington can upgrade less of it.

That step backward came with Biden’s move last week to stiffen requirements that federal government purchases be limited to products made in the United States — even if they’re more expensive. Thus he followed the grooves set by both Democratic and Republican predecessors, who have consistently embraced crowd-pleasing “buy American” stances that make economists groan.

“Counter-productive,” cautioned Melissa Kearney, a University of Maryland professor who favors much of Biden’s economic agenda. “It really makes some of the administration’s other goals harder to achieve.”

Biden acted to strengthen the nearly-a-century-old Buy American Act, whose provenance alone hints at shaky economic foundations. It was signed into law by former President Herbert Hoover, who had earlier signed the Smoot-Hawley protective tariffs at the dawn of the Great Depression.

That…

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