Those who’ve read my columns over the past few months know that I’m no fan of President Trump’s trade war. I view the ill-advised venture as a costly and self-defeating economic strategy, and I have little confidence that any deals that may eventually come from it will make up for the pain it has caused to our country (including our relationships with other countries).
Of course, it doesn’t help when the president keeps changing his explanation for why he imposed tariffs in the first place, while demonstrating little understanding of how international trade even works:
This is economic illiteracy on stilts. The US & Mexico don’t trade w/ each other. Trade occurs among private buyers & sellers, exporters & importers. Assuming transactions are voluntary, NO ONE loses from trading. Each transaction benefits both parties, or it wouldn’t take place. https://t.co/lEM6XSIAsC
— Jeff Jacoby (@Jeff_Jacoby) December 28, 2018
It goes without saying (though I’ll say it again) that the self-described conservatives who’ve been largely passive on this issue would have deemed such violations of the free market to be unacceptable and even un-American under the previous administration. And as multiple U.S. industries announce mass layoffs and domestic plant closures (due to the sharp rise in material costs), and the stock market continues to react adversely to the latest tweets from “Tariff Man”, the casualties that stick out to me the most — as a conservative — are U.S. farmers.
Farmers (most heavily in the soybean industry) have been losing billions of dollars due to China’s retaliatory response to Trump’s tariffs. This has contributed to the nearly one-hundred family farms that have filed for bankruptcy this year. And in an attempt to compensate the farmers who’ve hung in there, Trump has directed two rounds of tax-payer funded “emergency” bailouts their way.
In other words, Trump’s big-government intervention is removing billions from the U.S. private sector, and the administration is plugging the hole with billions more, paid for by you and me. And if that isn’t enough of a slap in the face of the free-market system, the president is publicly referring to these bailouts as “market facilitation payments.”
You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
To reiterate what all of us on the right would have understood and shouted from the hilltops during the Obama era, this isn’t market facilitation. It’s political facilitation.
But wait. There’s more…
As if the U.S. farmers caught up in the trade war needed more drama and uncertainty in their lives, those “market facilitation payments” — upon which President Trump has made them dependent — are at risk of drying up until after the government shutdown (which has no end in sight). Without a spending bill deal, the bailout funding can’t be authorized.
It’s a perfect storm of big-government overreach and dysfunction that was completely avoidable, brought to farmers by the leader of what is supposed to be the free-market, pro-business party.
Again, you can’t make this stuff up.