Accidents happen. A gun owner may be a bit careless, and when he pulls his trusty testosterone reinforcer from its holster, he might inadvertently pull the trigger, shooting himself in the foot. Ah well, accidents happen. But if he shoots himself in the foot a second time, then it’s not just an accident. He’s an idiot.
Donald Trump and his band of idiots have just managed to do that. They imposed a 30% tariff on Chinese solar panels. Trump says that this is to protect US jobs. Let’s assume for the moment that he is right…that the tariff will save the jobs of workers in US companies manufacturing solar panels. How many workers is that? Optimistic predictions say that the tariffs might add about 6400 jobs. How many people are involved in the installation of solar panels in the US? Somewhere between 260,000 and 374,000. It is too soon to say how many of those jobs will be lost if solar panel prices increase by 30%, but almost certainly far more than will be created in solar panel manufacturing. One initial estimate is 23,000. It could be a lot more.[i]
That’s the first shot in the foot. Now consider what China will do in retaliation. When Trump threatened during his Presidential campaign to erect a tariff wall protecting US companies from cheap Chinese products, he didn’t even consider what China would do in response. Did he think they would do nothing? They will respond, and they have many ways they can retaliate that will hurt US businesses.[ii] That’s the second bullet in the foot. Idiocy!
The whole Trumpian idea of erecting tariff barriers has given international economists nightmares. If he follows through on his dystopian plan, the resultant trade war could lead to a worldwide recession or worse. Free trade, for better or worse, has been a beneficial policy for many of the world’s nations and for the world economy. Not so much for the US, because US corporations have decided to export jobs to low-wage countries, and attack unions. Our government has cooperated in this, allowing them to evade US corporate taxes on overseas earnings. This has been fine for the corporations, but it is destroying the US Middle Class. Emasculating unions and driving down the wages of US workers may make US goods more competitive in world markets, but it is heading us down the road to a Third World economy, with a small super-rich elite class, while the majority will be living at poverty level.
Apparently, this is an outcome that Trump and Republicans are happy with. When will the rest of us wake up and throw the buggers out?