Trump Should Stop Cheering Taxes, and Listen to Suffering Businesses Instead
President Trump, in an impomptu press conference of sorts before boarding Marine One, took questions on a range of issues. Naturally, the ever-escalating trade dispute between the U.S. and China came up. The President began his answer by saying that the U.S. now has “billions [of dollars] coming in in the forms of tariffs or taxes.”
Alas, a cogent point on trade from Donald Trump. Tariffs are, indeed, taxes on both American businesses and American consumers. However, this truth must have been lost on him, and that analysis may have been an unintentional moment of clarity. In the next breath, Trump said he believed the Chinese wanted to cut a deal, but that he was very happy with the current arrangement. Just hours before, he also claimed the tariffs being charged to China were going to make the U.S. “richer than ever before.”
At the very least, this should relieve anyone of the notion that the trade escalation with China is merely a game of four-dimensional chess the President is playing in order to negotiate down to zero trade barriers. Just this summer, Trump tweeted that “our country was built on tariffs.” Before approaching any analysis of the Trump administration’s trade policy, it is important to recognize that the President is nothing but an unrepentant protectionist. The hopes that he may have been a closet free trader have been greatly exaggerated.
There is a reason Trump, in both interviews and on social media, is stepping up his rhetoric on his protectionism. It is because it is simply not working, and he is desperately trying to convince people to pay no attention to the devastating results his administration’s trade policies are already causing.
This week, farm aid payments began from the Department of Agriculture to farmers who were negatively impacted by the blowback from this trade escalation. Instead of acknowledging that these policies hurt our nation’s small farmers, Trump, along with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, issued a bailout. Vulnerable working farmers are now at the mercy of the federal government, because this administration will not admit that it is horribly wrong on trade and reverse its policies that have hamstrung them.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) pointed this out, saying that the bailout won’t even help recoup the losses farmers in his state have suffered. Corn growers and soybean farmers have echoed the same sentiment, saying that even with this bailout, it is only a drop in the bucket compared with the losses they have suffered due to Trump’s tariffs.
Farmers are far from the only ones who are facing hard times. General Motors (GM) just announced the closures of plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Maryland, citing the administration’s steel tariffs as a factor for doing so. Trump took to Twitter to criticize GM, and then had the nerve to suggest in his very next tweet that more tariffs could have prevented the closures and the layoffs. When that didn’t work, Trump resorted to calling them ungrateful. This is how quickly protectionists run out of coherent arguments.
Harley-Davidson also warned Trump about the effects his steel tariffs would have on them. The administration paid no attention, and the company moved some of its European market production out of the U.S. This was received by the President about as well as GM’s move was. He called the company’s executives “quitters” and advocated that customers boycott Harley-Davidson and start buying from their competitors.
This is all a natural consequence of protectionism. Its proponents expect businesses to lay down and accept the loss of revenue that comes along with tariffs. President Trump hurt American businesses and then lashed out at them for doing something to keep themselves in business. The market is speaking loudly and clearly, but it is falling on deaf ears in the Oval Office. That is because protectionism is antithetical to a free market economic approach.
This is all very strange for a President who is seemingly hinging the economic success of his administration on the fate of the stock market. Trump’s own trade policy is restricting the growth caused by the tax cuts passed in Congress and by the deregulatory agenda being implemented by most of his Cabinet officials.
Instead of making excuses, and claiming that this is all a ploy to eliminate worldwide tariffs, American consumers and businesses need to hold their President accountable. The President should listen to the market, and to businesses suffering his incoherent trade policies, instead of taking to social media to berate businesses for acting in their own self-interest.