Donald Trump left the economy in smoldering ruins once before, but few gave him credit for it because of the obvious and seismic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, now he’s eyeing a return to the White House and angling for a cratered economy he can finally call his own.
Trump is skipping the first Republican primary debate—partly because he can simply bugle to his orcs through his imperial purple neck wattle when it’s time to vote, and partly because he doesn’t want to answer uncomfy questions. Most of these would likely zero in on his feral attempts to literally end America, but he might also be asked about his new, bold economic plan—which is, to put it as charitably as possible, out of this world.
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The Washington Post recently reported on Trump’s future plans for our economy and—you guessed it—they’re nearly as simple and wrongheaded as he is.
Even in the face of growing personal legal peril, Donald Trump summoned his top economic advisers to his private golf club in New Jersey for a two-hour dinner last Wednesday night to map out a trade-focused economic plan for his presidential bid.
Trump and top aides, including former senior White House officials Larry Kudlow and Brooke Rollins, as well as outside advisers Stephen Moore and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, spent the dinner discussing how Trump could attack President Biden
in the 2024 election on the economy, amid a recent spate of positive economic news
that has buoyed Biden’s fortunes, according to three people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private event.
Indeed, President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.’s rapidly improving economy may be a slight stumbling block to Trump’s dreams of reinfecting the White House. Biden’s economy has added more than 13 million jobs, the unemployment rate recently hit historic lows, and post-COVID-19 inflation—which has bedeviled nearly every grocery shopper in the nation—has recently plummeted, giving hope that prices might stabilize before the Fed can force a recession through its ongoing and aggressive interest rate hikes. And while Americans who remain pressured by higher prices are unlikely to care as much as economists do, inflation in the U.S. has generally come down much faster than in other countries—all of which were similarly derailed by the pandemic—even as job growth has continued at a healthy clip.
So did Trump assemble a team of Nobel Prize-winning economists to fashion a nuanced economic plan that addresses wealth inequality and the acute and escalating challenges presented by climate change? Of course not. He’s quadrupling down on one of the worst ideas from his first (and hopefully only) term in order to bedazzle his slobberingly ignorant hordes and stay out of jail. And he’s consulting the always wrong Larry Kudlow; goofball supply-sider Stephen Moore; and Newt Gingrich, who is so divorced from reality these days he recently served it papers on its sickbed.
In a recent Fox Business interview, Trump told Kudlow that he’d set the 10% tariff “automatically” for all countries. “I think we should have a ring around the collar,” said Trump. “When companies come in and they dump their products in the United States, they should pay, automatically, let’s say a 10% tax. … I do like the 10% for everybody.”
Is it actually possible that Trump still doesn’t know other countries don’t pay those tariffs? That, in fact, we do? Does he still not understand this basic bottom-line truth about tariffs and their immediate impacts? Well, given that he once called Gen. Mike Flynn, his then-national security adviser, in the middle of the night to find out if a strong or weak dollar was better for the economy, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. But then there are still people in America who think he’s good at business.
Of course, most mainstream economists (i.e., not Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore) are flat-out horrified by Trump’s proposal.
Economists of both parties said Trump’s tariff proposal is extremely dangerous. Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, called the idea “lunacy” and “horrifying” and said it would lead the other major economies around the world to conclude the United States cannot be trusted as a trading partner. Although aimed at bolstering domestic production, a 10 percent tariff would hurt the thousands of U.S. firms that depend on imports, while also crippling the thousands of U.S. firms that depend on foreign exports, Posen said.
Posen also noted, “You would be depriving American families of an enormous amount of choice, making their lives much more expensive, and putting millions of people out of work.”
Well, sure, but millions of out-of-work people might finally be enough to successfully storm the Capitol, leading to a Thousand Year Trumpian Reich. Score!
Posen was hardly alone, of course. “On net, this would harm the American economy substantially” and “would gum up our whole production process,” Chris Clarke, a Washington State University economist, told The Post. “Producers would have higher costs, and now all the consumers are paying higher prices for goods that used to be imported.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s effervescent brain farts are doing what many thought impossible: uniting red and blue America—or at least the economic wonks among us. “[Trump’s plan] would be a disaster for the U.S. economy,” said Michael Strain, an economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “It would raise prices for consumers and be met with considerable retaliation from other nations, which would raise the costs facing U.S. businesses. It would reduce employment among manufacturing workers. It would be very, very bad.”
And while President Biden left many of his predecessors’ tariffs in place—the Chinese tariffs are still reportedly under review—Trump’s new plan would likely result in a fresh, and outsized, blow to the economy. A January 2021 study pegged the job losses resulting from Trump’s China tariffs alone at 245,000.
Then again, job growth, domestic prices, and the overall financial well-being of Americans are not generally top-of-mind for Trump. But grifting sure as shit is. As Posen notes, a 10% across-the-board tariff would give Trump a chance to issue exemptions to countries
he likes that pay him off. “It is a recipe for corruption,” Posen said. “They will decide that whoever cozies up to Trump, or whoever his commerce secretary is, will get the exception.”