Tariff Time…

Trump’s Tariffs went into effect last week, and the response from America’s trading  partners has been predictable–with one possible caveat. The targeted nations have responded by imposing their own tariffs, as expected–but they have also focused those retaliatory measures on goods produced in states that supported Trump. It’s an interesting gambit; we’ll see how it plays out.

The Republican Party used to be adamantly opposed to tariffs and trade wars, but the supine and complicit GOP Senators and Representatives currently serving have barely uttered a peep. It isn’t because they don’t know the dangers a trade war poses to the recovery we are currently enjoying–it’s because they must once again choose between the remaining shreds of their integrity and their business constituents, on the one hand, and the rabid Trump supporters who form a majority of the shrinking party’s base on the other.

As usual, Paul Krugman’s analysis of the political calculations involved is direct and on point. Krugman connects two very important dots: the longstanding Faustian bargain between big business and the GOP’s racist foot-soldiers, and the party’s war on expertise and evidence.

The imminent prospect of a trade war, it seems, concentrates the mind. Until very recently, big business and the institutions that represent its interests didn’t seem to be taking President Trump’s protectionist rhetoric very seriously. After all, corporations have invested trillions based on the belief that world markets would remain open, that U.S. industry would retain access to both foreign customers and foreign suppliers.

Trump wouldn’t put all those investments at risk, would he?

Yes, he would — and the belated recognition that his tough talk on trade was serious has spurred a flurry of action. Major corporations and trade associations are sending letters to the administration warning that its policies will cost more jobs than they create. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has begun an advertising campaign to convince voters of the benefits of free trade.

As Krugman notes, there is a heaping pile of “just deserts” here; corporate America has played cynical politics for years and is reaping what it sowed.

What do I mean by cynical politics? Partly I mean the tacit alliance between businesses and the wealthy, on one side, and racists on the other, that is the essence of the modern conservative movement.

For a long time business seemed to have this game under control: win elections with racial dog whistles, then turn to an agenda of tax cuts and deregulation. But sooner or later something like Trump was going to happen: a candidate who meant the racism seriously, with the enthusiastic support of the Republican base, and couldn’t be controlled.

The nature of that alliance became abundantly clear to anyone paying attention in 2016. But Krugman’s other important point is still insufficiently appreciated.

When organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or the Heritage Foundation declare that Trump’s tariffs are a bad idea, they are on solid intellectual ground: All, and I mean all, economic experts agree. But they don’t have any credibility, because these same conservative institutions have spent decades making war on expertise.

The most obvious case is climate change, where conservative organizations, very much including the chamber, have long acted as “merchants of doubt,” manufacturing skepticism and blocking action in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s hard to pivot from “pay no attention to those so-called experts who say the planet is warming” to “protectionism is bad — all the experts agree.”

Similarly, organizations like Heritage have long promoted supply-side economics, a.k.a., voodoo economics — the claim that tax cuts will produce huge growth and pay for themselves — even though no economic experts agree. So they’ve already accepted the principle that it’s O.K. to talk economic nonsense if it’s politically convenient. Now comes Trump with different nonsense, saying “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” How can they convince anyone that his nonsense is bad, while theirs was good.

Krugman ends his analysis by pointing to another looming threat to business (and the rest of us): authoritarianism. As he notes, it isn’t simply world trade that’s at risk, but the rule of law. “And it’s at risk in part because big businesses abandoned all principle in the pursuit of tax cuts.”

Meanwhile, the experts who are scorned by this administration are weighing in on the likely consequences of Trump’s economic ignorance:

There’s no formal definition of what constitutes a trade war, but the escalating exchange of trade barriers between the United States and its trading partners has hit a point where most economists say there will be a negative impact. Companies will scale back on investments, growth will slow, consumers will pay more for some items, and there could be more job losses. The Federal Reserve warned Thursday some companies are already scaling back or postponing plans.

We all need to hang on tight, because when you give the keys of your economic vehicle to a guy who couldn’t pass the drivers’ test, your ride is likely to be something between bumpy and disastrous.


  1. Sadly, I have to mention that the 75 years of the New Deal were maintained because of the Southern Democrats who accepted the pragmatism of the “Relief, Recovery, and Reform” of FDR and the North . As long as the North would accept the Racism of the South they could have their way. When the Racism came under attack. . . .well, think about what’s been going on since 1980 — just 38 years.
    Some of these alliances do last longer than common sense would seem to indicate possible.
    To state my opinion in a few words :: we ain’t seen nothing, yet, not withstanding Krugman.
    And to state my prophecy? We won’t last with it.

  2. I’m afraid I agree with Steve, once the economy starts it’s dive on this one we are in for a long drop. We could become the very thing our dear president hates. A sh^* hole country!

  3. “We all need to hang on tight, because when you give the keys of your economic vehicle to a guy who couldn’t pass the drivers’ test, your ride is likely to be something between bumpy and disastrous.”

    I believe it was only yesterday or the day before that I commented on the increase in prices of produce at Kroger; much of our produce, including that which is canned and/or frozen, is imported. Have those tariffs been instituted yet? This government has for many decades allowed businesses to increase prices before tariffs, taxes or shortages have actually taken place…including markups of prices on goods already on store shelves for sale.

    We knew when Trump began touting his “tax reform” was in the form of “tax cuts” to aid middle-America that the actuality would be the extreme opposite. I have asked why world leaders do not speak up, come forward to stop or immediately correct Trump’s lies and false accusations. We are now waiting to see the reactions from the UK to his public insults and declarations, via Rupert Murdock, of ending trade with them due to his dislike of Prime Minister May’s past actions and future objectives. He thinks his comments stating her really likes her as a person will soothe her feelings and get her to agree with him, the self-proclaimed “stable genius”. He looks on this as foreplay before any action takes place; and why the hell not, we are paying for his words, threats, lies and actions from our dwindling incomes.

    Copied and pasted from a winwithoutwar E-mail I received yesterday:
    “Joann, Trump is getting the “usable” nukes he wants.

    The Senate and House have already approved $90 million for these weapons. Closed-door final negotiations could end any time in the next few weeks. Soon we’ll have a new nuclear weapons program on our hands.”

    Are we letting Trump’s photo-ops and useless Congressional committee fiascoes such as yesterday’s inquisition of Agent Strzok get in the way of the real action going on in Congress? Will the tariffs be the source of the $90 million for these “usable nukes”? Are we paying for the coming self-destruction, set up by Trump and his cronies, as we do our regular shopping and maintaining our homes and vehicles? Has this entire nation become suicidal under Trump’s leaderless administration?

  4. I had to write an article very early this morning about Papa John Schnatter’s racist remarks once again and while the U of L booted his ass off their board of trustees, our new president at Ball State University said, “It’s too early to make a decision…”

    Ball State University knew full well that John has affiliated with the Koch brothers political efforts to embrace racism as a means to winning elections. They were warned, and Unkoch My Campus presented plenty of evidence to the BOT. All ignored by the administration.

    So, the Koch’s and Schnatter have their name on public buildings at Ball State and Purdue.

    Natacha commented yesterday about “greed.” Since John blamed falling revenues on the “NFL debacle” in November, his stock value has declined over 30%. It dropped 5% on Wednesday after the article in Forbes was published. He’s no longer the chairman or ceo of his own company.

    The breast milk scandal will come around to slam the companies involved, so Krugman is right about corporations who’ve sold out to political ideology to prop up their stock prices. At some point, the newfound “leaders” get the idea it’s all about them. 😉

    The comment, “So they’ve already accepted the principle that it’s O.K. to talk economic nonsense if it’s politically convenient.”

    Yes, it’s backfiring but where Krugman continues his intellectual dishonesty is attributing this truth to only the Republican Party. He knows that’s a lie, but yet he insists on repeating it. He doesn’t want to become marginalized, so he’s nothing but a cheerleader for one team.

    Paul is hedging until it becomes more en vogue to call a spade a spade. He likes his position with the New York Times. He’s also selling out just like those corporations he’s accusing. From my vantage point, Paul is still shilling for corporate America, capitalism, and the corruption within both political parties.

    Don’t forget; the New York Times ran an editorial applauding Trump’s SCOTUS pick. If that isn’t a boomerang that will come back to haunt them…

  5. I’m not an economist, so I’ll ask you: Don’t tariffs result in transfer of wealth from consumers to government treasuries? If so, can tariffs be interpreted as another unidentified tax on the unwary consumer?

  6. Not only that OMG, but the leader of the Soybean Industry, was told by Trump’s people that the federal government will make them whole.

    So, not only do consumers pay higher prices, but we’ll get the bill for bailing out the losers of the trade wars.

  7. local buisness here down,like the stuff ya buy when your doing good,and unessential items also..farmers and ranchers are not,buying. ranchers all wonder why tney only get less than a hundred bucks per head on cattle? try looking at conagra,and adm,and the like,for thier profits. like the so called ,,certified angus beef,scam…..all it does is stop imporeted beef,and keeps your t bone about 10 bucks a pound. we can all just look at this,but since trump and his mob are hell bent on flexing thier tired crap,maybe some protesting here is needed.. my conversation with co workers is a new low,they can not,and will not,or even comprehend why its effecting them,or why.keeping the status quo more difficult to understand. when i discuss the topic,and bring out facts,they are lazy minded,and dont want to hear it. denial is a wasted mind. current pole,from a trucking industry group,80% believe in trump,and his rehetoric,7% democrates,i wonder what the progresives slot even amounts to. obviously,the working class who,and ill be frank,beleives any crap as long as it sounds good,even being told,the united nations will bring in the goons to come to your house and get every gun in america..seroiusly,ive heard this in the past,and again lately. these people lack even common sense perspectives,like,who the hell would come to any door,and demand your guns?,obviously i had fun with this, i look at them in the face,and say,really.,and whos that stupid? theres a fact,many would kill you on the first try for even asking.this is how ignorant,and yes,they really beleive it..the news cycles are guilty of spreading false crap,and getting people irrate over trivial crap. last nite,c span,id like to thank,the democrates who stood up in the interview with fbi stroze,and held the commitee in contempt over trivial crap,and not the issues..i couldnt believe what i was watching as the republicans continually berated this fbi agent for a text,stating his persoanl view,and trying to further,and or,find ways to discredit the muelller investigation. bravo to,those who stayed focused on the issues.now, in this,we will see as we did with the bengazzi deal, the republicans will pass a investigation bill to investgate this mans texts,again and again,like bengazzi, only to have it timed to be focused again,in another election cyclel.. many millions are spent on harrasment,and not on issues. are we that numb,that its continually draining our tresaury,and breaking us,and all we did was look stupid when they paid back the rich with that 1.5 trillion giveaway,(afgan/iraq already has costed 6 trillion,did anyone even mention this?)called atax bill.
    this will lead to a collapse again,and we will gladly keep electing the same old crap.get some backbone,and change this,before our democracy,turns into a plutocracy..and we have litteraly,nothing to fight for…those republicans were out of line yesterday in commitee,and we demand it changes.

  8. p.s. i have a old saying,,,,,,,corprate america has decided,
    how much we will make,
    how much we will spend
    where we will spend it
    how we will wpend it
    and where we will spend it,

    this was thrirty years ago.
    now we are just economic slaves to this.

  9. You’re all “spinning your wheels.” Paul Krugman doesn’t have any answers. Terry Munson hit the nail on the head yesterday. Trump is GASLIGHTING the whole nation. He’s a sociopath. He’s gotten away with “murder” for years. You can’t stop him while the present, political, configuration is maintained. Our only possible out is severing him from Pence’s base. I know, that is near impossible. However, in this case, we have to try the IMPOSSIBLE. We have no other choice.

    By the way, I was taking with an army buddy, yesterday, who had recently been with a Trump supporter. He couldn’t believe what he had heard: “He’s crazy, but there is also good: It’s CRAZY/GOOD.”

  10. I think a much larger point is being overlooked by Krugman. Trump sees the economy as an instrument of power like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Putin and so forth. He wants to wield it to achieve domestic political aims and as a weapon in a zero-sum trade wars with friend and foe alike. He wants to use his power to realign global capitalist interests into Trumpian winners and losers, beholden to him or to be punished.

    It flows from a simple totalitarian authoritarian view. “There is no license any more, no private sector where the individual belongs to himself.” Adolf Hitler

  11. If the sleeping giant awakens and gives birth on November 6, 2018 to some inspired benevolent leadership, at least survival may result.

    Without that emergence, without flipping the Complicit Congress in November, without grooming our 2021 administration there seems to be hope only for the looming disaster, the disaster for which we are ill prepared, the disaster that will be unnoticed by millions of our fellow citizens.

    Shoot down the rabid dogs so our new leadership may step forward.

  12. You could say that the inmates are in charge of the asylum, but in fact, we could only hope that the inmates would take over. Their responses would be far more coherent than 45’s. Besides, that would be an insult to the inmates.

  13. John,

    Using the economy for political power is called fascism. It ALWAYS leads to dictatorship and a dystopian society. That’s where we’re headed now.

    Otherwise, many of us have been pointing this phrase out for a very long time:
    Similarly, organizations like Heritage have long promoted supply-side economics, a.k.a., voodoo economics — the claim that tax cuts will produce huge growth and pay for themselves — even though no economic experts agree. So they’ve already accepted the principle that it’s O.K. to talk economic nonsense if it’s politically convenient. Now comes Trump with different nonsense, saying “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” How can they convince anyone that his nonsense is bad, while theirs was good.

    Milton Friedman’s DOA idea has plenty of evidence that it is a disaster for the majority population. So, Todd, since Democrats don’t embrace voodoo economics, it falls exclusively on the Republicans who do.

  14. I would suggest reading “Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand” by Benjamin Carter Hett (Oxford University Press, New York, 2008).

    From the front flap:

    “In the Eden Dance Palace trial of 1931, in which four Nazi storm troopers stood accused of criminal assault and attempted murder, a lawyer for the prosecution requested the presence of Adolph Hitler as a witness. At the time, Hitler was trying to distance himself from Nazi paramilitary activities and to prove to the German middle class that he was pursuing legal means. He had appeared as a witness at trials before and had used the occasion to affirm his commitment to legality and his vision of Germany’s destiny. In this instance, however, the lawyer didn’t let him off the hook. Hans Litten grilled Hitler about the SA (storm troopers) and his relationship to it, revealing the full extent of Hitler’s conspiracy in its violent methods and reducing him to sputtering rage.

    “Crossing Hitler” gives us the story of this historic confrontation, as well as the man who for a brief moment posed a serious threat to the Nazi rise to power. [Hans] Litton was truly an extraordinary figure, embodying some of the complexities of his age. The son of a prominent law dean who refused to acknowledge his Jewish roots, and of a mother descended from Lutheran ministers, Litten espoused both Judaism and radical left-wing politics. When he began practicing law he deliberately took on cases that brought him into direct conflict with Nazi ambition.

    For this, Litten paid the full price. Hitler never forgot his humiliation and had Litten thrown into concentration camps at the earliest opportunity.”

    No one said, taking on Donald Trump, directly, would be easy or safe. But as you can clearly see, it is possible and a NECESSITY.

  15. Vernon,

    Yes. Many commenters on this blog see it too. Wonder why it’s not more apparent to others “out there”?


  16. John,

    “[Vernon] Yes. Many commenters on this blog see it too. Wonder why it’s not more apparent to others “out there”?”

    It’s all about Professor Kennedy; she is one of the great defenders of FREE SPEECH.

  17. Whatever made any of us think that white males would give up their economic, political and social dominance even if doing so meant destroying the very thing they claimed to be saving?

  18. The Financial Times columnist Robert Shrimsley has a good take on Donald Trump’s trade policy intervention. >> “We are all viewing Trump trade statement as a Brexit intervention. But the bigger picture here is Trump’s desire to weaken the EU as a trading block. That’s why he told Macron to leave and why he wants UK to do so. This is not an idle aside, it is US trade strategy.”

    It is disturbing to notice the vast amount of imported products into the USA, almost all electronics. A few weeks ago I purchased a new frying pan. The pan itself was made in China and the lid was made in Thailand. Free trade is not fair trade.

  19. Why did Bill Clinton say that the worst thing he did in his presidency was to sign NAFTA? Free trade not fair trade caused the loss of millions of jobs as manufacturing facilities left because we were too weak to put in tears. The real problem is once you enter into a free trade economy it is hard to install them back into the economy without causing another shift
    Morning Joe made the comment that many Democrats are happy with the Effort to impose fair trade. It’s difficult for anyone one to understand atariff unless a complete explanation for why that tariff is given.

  20. Theresa @ 9:45am

    “Whatever made any of us think that white males would give up their economic, political and social dominance even if doing so meant destroying the very thing they claimed to be saving?”

    Answer: The American Civil War. 1860-1865.
    Hearing anew the drumbeats?

  21. Is no one reassured that President Pinocchio just reminded us that he is a stable genius? Just because twenty-seven psychiatrists claim that he is not stable, and anyone who made it through junior high school can see that he is the most intellectually challenged genius ever, he must be great or the Brits wouldn’t have spent all that money on capturing his likeness in a unique art medium – rubber.

    NPR claims to have interviewed a lot of Republican Congressmen (on the q. t.) and did not find one who favored tariffs. Nor did they find one who had the cojones to say that to Trump’s face. In Paul Ryan’s defense (he needs all the defense he can get) he has said, in his inimitable Milquetoast manner, that tariffs are “not the solution.” Dear Paul: Maybe you’d like to tell us what is? Have you considered impeachment?

    What troubles me is the possibility that Trump supporters will lose their jobs, their farms, their businesses and their homes to this tariff travesty and yet continue to insist that Trump is their man. History tells us that they won’t be the first misguided martyrs to give up their lives for their beliefs.

  22. Terry,

    “What troubles me is the possibility that Trump supporters will lose their jobs, their farms, their businesses and their homes to this tariff travesty and yet continue to insist that Trump is their man.”

    You’re probably right. Would the realities of a Civil/Race War make a difference? Maybe not.

  23. Our only chance at this late date to prevent FUTURCIDE, is a visual re-enactment whether on the screen or on the stage of the END GAME of this American made MONSTER. That’s why I purchased the URL: TrumpCard.video 7 days after Trump announced that he would run for President.

    It would combine the efforts of Chalmers Johnson in his book: “Blowback” with the creative genius of the German playwright, Erwin Piscator, during the 20’s and 30’s.

    “In 1924 Piscator became a free-lance director at the Volksbuhne, the government sponsored theater that had a formidable reputation and historic tradition in Germany. It was at the Volksbuhne that Piscator’s great innovations began to show in full. The resources and the changing ideology of the Volksbuhne were advantageous to the development of Piscator’s theatrical style. The technological resources of the large, well equipped modern theater enabled Piscator for the first time to experiment with the latest technical machinery, as well as to utilize proper rehearsal space and professionally trained actors. At the Volksbuhne he was presented with the opportunity to de-romanticize the formal traditions of the German theater. He was now able to “…construct instead of interpret. Go from intellectualism to truth, from fiction to report…from plot to event…from psychological mystery to the facts of life.” In particular his introduction of mass media in the form of PROJECTED PHOTOGRAPHS and FILM helped Piscator “to make the theater [more capable] of handling the twentieth century issues” he wanted to address, and also emphasized Piscator’s concern with realistic portrayals.”

    “Politics and Culture in the Weimar Republic: The Political Theater of Erwin Piscator” by Evie T. Joselow at the Seminar on “Cultural and Artistic Upheavals in Modern Europe 1848 to 1945,” held in 1996 at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens located in Jacksonville, Florida USA.

    We need to remember “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis was adapted into a stage play in the mid 30’s. Also the book “Fail Safe” was made into a movie and also a live presentation on TV, produced by one of the co-authors, Harvey Wheeler and George Clooney.

    “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

  24. So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. First, our mindless capitalists send our jobs to cheap labor countries so they won’t have to deal with labor unions, higher transportation costs (perceived), higher utility costs and (God forbid) taxes. O.K. Now all of our consumer goods are produced in other, cheaper countries by people earning $0.10 on the dollar. Our consumers then pay high prices and the stockholders are ecstatic. It should be noted that those majority stockholders don’t really work for a living. They just shift electrons around and go to the bank.

    NOW, we have a “president” who is dumping on those countries that supply many of our goods, especially the expensive goods that the rich stockholders buy. Russia, for example, sends us nothing but a hard time. Our “president” loves Russia’s leader. China sends us most of our goods, so the orange hairball invokes trade tariffs and a trade war just to show that we won’t be pushed around.

    Am I missing something, or is the “president’s” strategy self-defeating to the USA and disastrous for those people who actually have to work for their living…such as it’s become?


    “I skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it has been.
    ~Wayne Gretzky, the great NHL player

  26. When I was a lad, as stories often start, my peeps thought it important to teach me the ill effects of lying using a device they apparently read of called consequences which apparently were effective memory joggers because I still remember them.

    About the same time they were reading a book called “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” about a tribe on Madison Avenue preaching the opposite, that professional lying was very rewarding and lucrative. They were following an immigrant guru named Edward Bernays who was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by “Life“ magazine which was also studied intently by adults at our house.

    Since then it strikes me that the lying for money side has overtaken and passed my lesson of truth shall set you free of consequences and today professional lying is everywhere all of the time pouring out of screens from tiny to gigantic that follow us whereever we go.

    What makes the story even stranger was that my parents were die hard Republicans which has become since their time the political picture of proficient professional liars.

    This is all very confusing to me. Here I thought my parents were on my side but arguing against that is a celebrity liar tearing down the free world to the applause of many.

    What happened to consequences?

  27. Trump can be counted on to exempt his own goods manufactured overseas and those of his daughter (he’s already done both). He can also be counted on to use public policy to effect his own biases until and unless they affect his own bank account and the part of his political base he most values (which most reflect his own). He’ll choose his own facts. It’s about him and his money. At 70+ years of age, those habits and preferences are baked into his soul.

  28. It is interesting that in cleaning out my file cabinet, I came across a 30-year old journal article on game theory. The point was that the classical game, Prisoner’s Dilemma, is played once, giving the impression of a single best strategy (aggressive and selfish). Life, however, consists of a series of encounters, often with the same people. Repeated playing of the game with the same people gives a very different best strategy (called Tit for Tat – basically start altruistic (trusting), and punish once if betrayed). The article cited certain counterproductive, “feel good” real world examples of bad strategies. Among them was raising tariffs leading to a trade war.

    Speaking of games, in college, we sometimes played the board game Risk, which is basically world conquest based on rolling the dice. After my first victory, the games usually started with “Let’s eliminate Len – too dangerous”. After college, a group of friends invited me to play the game Diplomacy, which is basically Risk with periods of negotiations and alliance building between rounds (attacks and defenses can be coordinated). I decided to play against my nature and be a total lying jerk, in retrospect called the Trump strategy. I lied through two rounds and gained a vastly superior position on the board. The third round consisted of everyone surrendering (without my asking). I was never asked to play that again.

    Some MSNBC commentator made a similar observation about Trump. He can screw one contractor and find a different one for his next project, but there is only one Canada (substitute any ally). They will remember him.

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