Biden has the means to reduce inflation. Why isn’t he acting?

As a reminder, a tariff is a tax on goods paid by the U.S. consumer who buys those goods. It is by definition inflationary; it raises the price of a good such as an imported car. But it causes even more inflation than that, because it raises the price of the domestically made equivalent goods as well. If a Mazda sells for more, then Ford and General Motors also tend to raise prices on their cars.

The reverse logic applies as well. If you cut tariffs, that also has a broader effect: When the Mazda gets cheaper, Ford and GM will cut prices to compete.

In March, the Peterson Institute for International Economics produced a study estimating that reversing most of the Trump tariffs would reduce inflation by 1.3 percentage points. Lawrence H. Summers, a Post contributing columnist who has been prescient on many things in this economic crisis, endorsed that study, concurring that trade barrier reduction was the single biggest microeconomic measure “by far” that could be taken to alleviate inflation in the near term.

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