Only Trump Thinks He’s Right

Terry H. Schwadron

June 1, 2019

Could it be that Trump the Great Divider has finally brought all of us together?

The answer may be yes, even If it is in total mind-numbing astonishment over announced the threat of tariffs on Mexico as the tool of choice to stop immigration problems?

Liberals, conservatives, people on both sides of the Southern border all seem to agree that the crescendo-ing tariffs that Donald Trump wants to impose to force Mexico into what he thinks will be an effective campaign to stop fleeing Central Americans from storming the U.S. border.

In a single swipe, Trump plans to levying a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports in 10 days, and hike the penalties each month to 25% if Mexico does not end Central American migrants, though no specific targets were identified. By so doing, Trump immediately put his own proposed North American economic treaty in the toilet, angered a major trade policy, endangered the U.S. auto industry — and has effectively hiked consumer prices for Americans for fruit and vegetables, tequila and cars, as well as hundreds of other products.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats basically are shelving the treaty proposal, and the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, “President Trump, social problems can’t be resolved through taxes or coercive measures,” López Obrador wrote. Business leaders said they were astonished or baffled, and markets plummeted in the day following the announcement.

A New York Times editorialsaid, “Once again, rather than acting strategically, Mr. Trump is lashing out — and Americans will feel the pain.”

But set those reactions aside. Conservative Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, jumped on the news to warn that the treaty was in danger.

Here’s the reaction from Philip Klein, editor of the conservative Washington Times: “This is mindbogglingly stupid on so many levels.”

Klein adds in an op-ed that “Defenders of President Trump’s trade wars have tried to argue that his reckless moves are actually part of a cunning strategy to lower tariffs, knock down trade barriers, and usher in true free trade. But Trump just threw that defense out the window” with the Mexican tariffs.

As with other tariffs on Chinese products, these tariffs will add to the cost of everyday goods, becoming, in effect, another tax on products that make up the $346.5 billion in goods imported annually from Mexico. It will endanger U.S. industries, like autos, that depend on a free flow of supply-line components from Mexico, to say nothing of the retaliatory tariffs that are inevitable in the coming days.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Trump previously touted as a major trade victory already was facing bipartisan difficulties in Congress, but this move will prove at least disruptive, if not fatal.

Of course, Trump has argued that tariffs are the basis for his economic program and better trade deals. This announcement lumps in trade in with cracking down on illegal immigration, which is clearly a social or security issue, not a trade issue.

In any case, it is difficult to see how these tariffs would ease illegal Mexican or Central American immigration, legal and illegal. As Klein, among others, notes, the surest way that Mexico has to reducing the desire of Mexicans to leave for America is to improve the Mexican economy, which would be immensely more difficult in the midst of a trade war with the U.S. There were no actual targets,, timetable or measurements included in the tweet making the policy announcement.

Indeed, in the White House statement expanding on the tweet, Trump said, “If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the tariffs will be removed.” You could drive a truck through the holes in that language.

All this is to say nothing about the real problems at the border — a combination of a lack of operational readiness and empathy — and a failure to get down to working with the Central American nations to work jointly to address the underlying conditions of violence and poverty that are forcing people to leave in large numbers. News reports suggest that the U.S. authorities are unable to adhere to court ordered time limits for incarceration, for example.

Instead, once again, Trump wants to solve a social problem with punishment.

On top of all this, the legal basis for presidential power to simply declare tariffs could be challenged in court. Trump is relyingon the 1977 Emergency Economic Powers Act, which has been used 54 times, 29 of which continue.

I suppose that Congress can do something to step in here, however unlikely that possibility is in real life. Instead, this is a policy that will implode because it is simply monumentally dumb and ineffective.

Tariffs are the wrong tool for the job at hand, hitting at Americans as well as Mexican trade policies, ineffective in translation to immigration-stopping actions, with no measures or goals in sight.




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