Trump: How does a giant 45% tariff on all the cheap Chinese goods you buy sound?
So the average Joe gets to pay way, way more at the store and gets to worry about losing his job after China inevitably retaliates with tariffs of its own, shrinking foreign demand for U.S. goods? That sounds like a plan.
Four years ago, when Trump flirted with running for president, he suggested a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. Now it’s 45 percent. Is that based on an economic calculation or is it just Trump getting a little crazier with the protectionist cheez whiz to prove he’s more populist now than ever?
“The only power that we have with China,” Mr. Trump said, “is massive trade.”…
“I would do a tax. and the tax, let me tell you what the tax should be … the tax should be 45 percent,” Mr. Trump said.
China is on a path this year to surpass Canada as the biggest single trading partner of the United States, and its factories provide American consumers with lower-cost products ranging from clothing to computers, so such steep tariffs could hurt the pocketbooks of many Americans.
This CNN Money piece from 2011 concisely addresses the weak points in the tariff idea. If Trump is eyeing it as a bluff, to scare China into ending its currency manipulation, that’s one high-stakes bluff. Would China’s leadership bow to an overt economic threat from a new U.S. president upon his taking office, knowing what kind of signal that would send about Chinese resolve towards America? If they call President Alpha Male’s bluff, then he has no choice but to implement the tariff and the trade war is on. And as the CNN piece explains, a U.S. market that’s effectively closed to Chinese imports wouldn’t necessarily turn to U.S. manufacturers and U.S. workers to fill the void. More likely it’d turn to other developing economies with lower labor costs to supply those cheap goods. Result: Tension with China, pain for American manufacturers who’d suddenly find the Chinese market closed to them, and less than what was promised by Trump about a revival in American manufacturing. (China could also challenge the tariff in the WTO, but I assume Caesar Trump would pull the U.S. out of that if the ruling didn’t go his way.) As for whether this represents good, old-fashioned “conservative” economics, let’s not even bother analyzing it. We’re well past that point of Trumpmania now.
Here’s something else to raise an eyebrow from Trump’s meeting with the NYT editorial board today:
In addressing the Oregon standoff, Mr. Trump also spoke about the “great anger out there” that appears to be fueling the situation in Burns, Ore.
“I think what I’d do, as president, is I would make a phone call to whoever, to the group,” he said, adding later, “I’d talk to the leader. I would talk to him and I would say, ‘You gotta get out — come see me, but you gotta get out.’”
“You cannot let people take over federal property,” Mr. Trump said. “You can’t, because once you do that, you don’t have a government anymore. I think, frankly, they’ve been there too long.”
President Trump would directly negotiate with people who are illegally occupying federal property? That’s an incentive for every radical across the spectrum to create hostage situations, knowing that the president’s direct involvement in resolving it would be a huge media spotlight for their cause. If Black Lives Matter seized a federal office somewhere tomorrow and Obama decided to speak with them directly, we’d be killing him today for legitimizing the takeover by granting them a presidential audience. Trump’s smart enough to understand that, but his ego’s too big to let him absorb the lesson. Because he’s convinced of his own supreme competence in all situations, he thinks that him talking directly to Ammon Bundy would obviously be the easiest way to end the standoff expeditiously. As for what he means by “they’ve been there too long,” he told the Times that he wasn’t necessarily calling for military action but that “at a certain point you have to do something.” Er, like what? Obama and his deputies have played the Oregon standoff smartly by waiting Bundy and his crew out; a new Ruby Ridge would be a disaster for all sides. As it is, by being patient, the feds have put Bundy in a position where he’s already talking about leaving voluntarily at some point. Trump, forever impelled to “show strength,” might choose the Ruby Ridge option simply because he couldn’t tolerate the perception of weakness in strategic patience.
Via Andrew Stiles, here’s Trump floating the tariff idea back in 2011. If you’re at work, be advised that there’s an F-bomb (actually, an MF-bomb) to come. Here again you see the core of Trumpism at work: The tariff might not work if a guy with a high-pitched feminine voice is pushing it, but if President Alpha Male pushes it, those puppies in Beijing will roll over and let him scratch their bellies. There are no tough guys in China’s brutal authoritarian top tier, after all.