Always leery of economic chaos, the editorial board of the conservative Wall Street Journal dropped the hammer on President Donald Trump for announcing escalating tariffs on Mexico for a problem the Journal said Mexico can’t solve and is not responsible for.
Under a headline, ‘Tariff Man Unleashed,” the editors made their disgust apparent right from the start.
“The biggest economic risk of a Donald Trump Presidency has always been that his trade obsessions would swamp the benefits of tax reform and deregulation,” they began. “For two years he has kept his worst protectionist impulses mostly in check, but as he seeks a second term we are now seeing Tariff Man unchained. Where he stops nobody knows, which is bad for the economy and perhaps his own re-election.”
According to their analysis, the punitive tariffs should not be levied for a problem that is not of Mexico’s making.
“The first problem here is that Mr. Trump is blaming Mexico for a mess it can’t solve. The real cause of the recent border chaos is the lure of U.S. asylum policy. Migrants from Central America know that if they cross the border illegally with children they can’t be detained for more than 20 days,” they explained. “The Mexico tariffs also heighten economic uncertainty because they aren’t even about trade. The risk is that Mr. Trump has come to view tariffs as a blunt-force tool to achieve any diplomatic goal. They are Mr. Trump’s magic elixir that will solve any political ailment … No supply chain is safe from Tariff Man.”
Beyond the economic disruption — a major complaint of the WSJ’s editors who see a possible trade agreement going down in flames now — is the issue of the president’s diminishing “credibility” as they accuse Trump of being a big bag of wind.
“The best scenario is that this tariff threat is Mr. Trump’s familiar bluster in which he threatens chaos to get attention and then backs down,” they wrote, before warning, “But then Tariff Man is impulsive and often his own worst enemy. Equities have fallen for six straight weeks and corporate profits are down. The job market is strong, but that isn’t guaranteed if investment starts to lag. Senate Republicans need to get off their sedan chairs and send this President a message on trade, or they may be in the minority in 2021.”
You can read more here (subscription required).