You might have heard, Donald J. Trump craves the economic ruin of the United States. He wants to impose $100 Billion in tariffs against Chinese goods, the latest tennis serve in a heated trade war with Beijing. It’s unclear exactly how this will play out–except this most likely won’t result in an outcome that is beneficial to the US. Trump seems to be sabotaging himself without realizing it. He believes that he has become unshackled from the restraints of his advisers, now free to pursue the populist policies that are what his base supposedly wants.
While Trump and and an angry voting base seem to be getting their version of the American dream–a fight with any foreigner, from immigrants to an inextricably linked trading system with China, both of these policies will sabotage the US economy. So, as Trump continues to sabotage himself and his presidency, he sabotages the welfare of the citizens he promised to protect. Because a thriving economy is not about nationalistic, or isolationist, trade directives, it takes advantage of an international system, keeping prices fairly low and maintaining robust consumer confidence.
Since Trump’s tariffs will only result in increased prices for American consumers, I fail to see how this will improve the US economy. Honestly? POTUS could’ve ridden the wave of relative economic prosperity and reduced taxes for the middle class and would’ve had a much higher chance at political survival come the midterms and 2020 than with what appears to be his current plan.
As it stands though, the deliberate decision to escalate a trade war with China will only backfire economically, and thus politically. The GOP base prides itself on the ideology of economic pragmatism, despite a usual disconnect between policy and reality. But the consequences will be much more severe if this economic conflict continues, again hitting the middle class and poor the hardest. How long can Republican voters keep up the pretense? They can only maintain such a ridiculous ideology when in an economic bubble. What happens when prices go up? Not to mention if China goes through with its promise to develop an alternative source for soybeans, this will only serve to undermine the interests of US farmers.
Of course, on the flip side of the coin, China has long engaged in predatory trade and other economic practices, and if you find yourself competing with another world power, some strategy needs to be deployed. This just seems like the worst possible strategy. “I hit, you hit back, so I’ll hit you again.”
What broader strategy does the Trump administration have? In response to Trump’s initial decision to impose tariffs, China made it clear it would rely on other trading partners to compensate for an increasingly competitive US. How exactly is our president planning to compensate? I don’t mean the usual self-serving narcissistic injury stuff. What I’m saying is that the Trump administration remains incredibly short-sighted. Bluntly put, the US economy has always relied on the exploitation of foreigners, be it trade or domestic labor, to maintain economic prosperity. That’s always been a heinous position, and one that Republican voters have been able to comfortably deny as long as a strong economy allowed them to look the other way. Unfortunately for the conservative voter, populist policies result in an opposite economic direction. Then, when it’s too late to reverse course, they see the light.