Up is down. Down is up. Left is right and right is left when it comes to trade during the Trump era. That’s because we’re faced with the contradiction that has arisen regarding tariffs, trade deficits, and the 1984-like shift in mentalities as it pertains to free trade versus fair trade.
Welcome to 2019.
What should be considered good news to fiscal conservatives popped today as the trade deficit hit a 10-year-high. Those who believe in sound economic principles understand that having a high trade deficit as a consuming nation means the economy is strong. People are buying, which means companies are buying, which means they’re importing more goods and resources. One of the clearest signals of economic growth is when your import numbers rise. Exports should rise as well, but not at the same pace as imports. This is precisely what’s happening in America today, which is why conservatives should be celebrating.
Unfortunately, many of them cannot. They’ve been led down the path of believing trade deficits are bad, free trade is bad, and tariffs are good. In other words, they’ve been sold the talking points Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders were using in 2014 and 2015. As I noted before, conservatives opposed Sanders and Schumer on tariffs for a reason.
But Republicans aren’t alone in their confusion. Democrats and the media are taking the news as a sign that the President’s policies aren’t working. They like to look at everything in isolation (it’s the only way they can reconcile the inconsistencies in their politics), so if their enemy President Trump wanted to lower the trade deficit and it’s rising instead, that must mean a victory for their narrative, right? Of course, they then should have to reconcile why the trade deficits are rising (tax cuts helping the economy) and how the policy they supported for years (tariffs) seems to be failing, at least based on progressive economic policies.
This is why they have headlines that say, “Trump dealt blow as US trade deficit jumps,” despite the fact that it’s the leftist policies he’s been invoking that apparently are failing. They must also ignore the fact that these policies’ “failure” is actually a huge indicator of economic strength. If there’s one major takeaway from all this, it’s that when Republicans abandon conservative economic principles, they sow confusion as nobody seems to know who or what to cheer for when the results of their policies come to bear.
Perhaps conservative commentator Thomas Sowell said it best:
It’s pathetic. The very phrase “trade surpluses” gives half a story. There are countries that supply mainly goods, physical goods, and there are other things like services that other countries provide, and the United States gets a lot of money from providing services. To talk about one part of the trading and ignore the other part fails to understand that money is money no matter whether it’s from goods or services.
When you set off a trade war, like any other war, you have no idea how that’s going to end. You’re going to be blindsided by all kinds of consequences. You do not make America great again by raising the price to Americans, which is what a tariff does.
To summarize, Democrats and the press have to condemn the policies they recently supported because the President and Republicans adopted them, and even though they aren’t working, the tax cuts have made the economy boom in spite of them.