Before you go shouting about my macroeconomic illiteracy or the Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s, or, in the words of Paul Krugman, the “very salutary” effect of the world trading system, let me remind you of something. Donald Trump is president. And Donald Trump is president because we have gutted the working class of this country and had corporate America so co-opt the machinery of government that there is never a win for the blue-collar worker. Never.
People are so despondent for some evidence that their government can do something to help them that they elected a charlatan who simply acknowledged the manifestly obvious fact that both parties were screwing them.
So, let me be clear here. It is true that, in general, free trade provides net macroeconomic benefits versus a more protectionist approach. It is true that the net macroeconomic effects of these types of tariffs might even be slightly negative, though their effects are likely to be modest. But here’s the key — these tariffs are evidence that the government can actually do something targeted to help blue-collar workers.