As if President Donald Trump doesn’t already have enough on his plate — with special counsel Robert Mueller about to release more details into his investigation into Trump associates’ involvement with the Russians — now he has Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman pronouncing his international trade policies a disaster.
In his regular New York Times column, with the Trump-unfriendly headline of “The Art of the Imaginary Deal,” Krugman stated that the president’s attempts to shake up trade with China has shown Trump (who called himself “Tariffman” this week in a tweet) to be a “rebel without a clue.”
“Are we going to have a full-blown trade war with China, and maybe the rest of the world? Nobody knows — because it all depends on the whims of one man. And Tariff Man is ignorant, volatile and delusional,” he wrote, getting right to the point.
“Where, after all, is the major constituency supporting Donald Trump’s tariffs and threats to exit international agreements?” he asked rhetorically. “Big business hates the prospect of a trade war, and stocks plunge whenever that prospect becomes more likely. Labor hasn’t rallied behind Trumpist protectionism either.”
Recalling how FDR got Congress to agree that “the executive branch negotiates trade deals with other countries, and Congress simply votes these deals up or down,” Krugman stated that they obviously never anticipated a president like Trump.
“In other words, U.S. trade law gives the president a lot of discretionary power over trade, as part of a system that curbs the destructive influence of corrupt, irresponsible members of Congress. And that setup worked very well for more than 80 years,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t intended to handle the problem of a corrupt, irresponsible president.”
“What’s he doing with that power?” Krugman continued. “He’s trying to negotiate deals. Unfortunately, he really, really doesn’t know what he’s doing. On trade, he’s a rebel without a clue.”
“Even as he declared himself Tariff Man, Trump revealed that he doesn’t understand how tariffs work. No, they aren’t taxes on foreigners, they’re taxes on our own consumers,” he lectured.
Bashing Trump for looking for any kind of deal that would make him look good, Krugman lamented the state of economic affairs under the current president.
“Unfortunately, that’s the person who’s now in charge, and it’s hard to see how he can be restrained,” he charged. “So the future of world trade, with all it implies for the world economy, now hinges largely on Donald Trump’s mental processes. That is not a comforting thought.”
You can read the whole scathing editorial here.