President Trump’s stunning new announcement of tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel may be the dumbest and most dangerous thing he has done. Yes, I know, there is much competition for that title, but by any objective analysis this latest move may be the worst. That is not just my opinion. It is an analysis based on facts and includes historical context and perspective, and it is the conclusion of many if not most economists, trade experts, historians and press editorialists. Even the Trump-supporting Wall Street Journal editorial board views the President’s decision as almost jaw-droppingly dumb and dangerous.
Stock markets have waned in the wake of the move, farmers and car makers are aghast, tensions with China have increased, and talk of a possible all-out “trade war” has given friends, foes and those in between a bad case of the jitters.
In the background are memories of the 1920s when extreme economic nationalism—not patriotism but nationalism—led to spreading tariff protections and eventual trade wars, that in turn led to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The overall general consensus now seems to be some of version of, “what in the world could Trump be thinking?”. One answer put forward by some is that Mr. Trump is, once again, seeking to “shore up his base,” seeking favor with blue-collar voters in old-line manufacturing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan (where he upset Hillary Clinton). If that’s true, it makes the decision even worse.
He’s seeking personal, political and electoral advantage. But what about the country? Never mind him and whatever benefit he may think it gives him, his political movement and his chances for re-election…what about the country? He could not have been singing “My Country ’tis of Thee” and have made this decision.