So I think it’s important that everyone understands the extent to which what Donald Trump is doing has almost nothing to do with economics and everything to do with shoring up his image among whatever’s left of his support base.
It’s gotten so bad that this idiot is now behind in the polls to a hypothetical candidate. Here’s Politico:
President Donald Trump’s new campaign manager has his work cut out for him.
A week after naming Brad Parscale to run his reelection effort, Trump is 8 points behind a generic Democratic candidate, 44 percent to 36 percent, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Nearly one in five voters, 19 percent, are undecided.
Male voters are evenly split: 42 percent would vote for Trump, and 42 percent would back the Democratic candidate. Among female voters, the Democrat has a 15-point lead, 46 percent to 31 percent.
Let that sink in – he’s trailing someone who doesn’t even exist.
Additionally, one certainly imagines that at least some of the everyday, “forgotten Americans” that Trump claims to represent (despite being a billionaire with a penchant for arranging photoshoots that depict him and his family surrounded by gilded furnishings) have figured out that his policies are not in fact designed to benefit them at all.
Anyone who took even 30 minutes to analyze the tax plan could see that it was aimed at helping high income Americans (here are the numbers) and the best available estimates are that Trump’s family will benefit to the tune of some $1.1 billion from the tax cuts he crammed down everyone’s throats.
Between that, the fact that the promised “big beautiful wall” is still just 8 lonely prototypes in the middle of the San Diego desert, his failure to “repeal and replace”, and the bungled effort to institute the Muslim ban, he really – really – needs to engineer something he can definitively point to as evidence that he’s made good on some of his campaign trail promises.
When you throw in the fact that Republicans have been unable to break the Washington gridlock despite controlling the government and the irreparable damage Steve Bannon did to the GOP by backing Roy Moore, you end up with what looks like dire straits headed into the mid-terms.
And so: tariffs! Trade wars to the rescue!
Here’s Barclays explaining why this strategy sometimes works among the disaffected:
Amid declining employment in manufacturing and stagnant wages, a portion of the American electorate has become more skeptical toward free trade. Politicians from both parties have channeled that skepticism. Despite evidence showing strong gains from trade, protectionist rhetoric can be a useful political strategy. Since the benefits of free trade are widely dispersed among many, the beneficiaries are likely to protest only mildly to protectionist measures. Meanwhile, the costs of free trade tend to be acutely borne by a few, with whom protectionism resounds strongly.
If you are reading that correctly, it suggests that people are being manipulated by politicians who are playing on fears of globalization to marshal support for an agenda that is objectively bad from a utilitarian/economic perspective. That excerpt is found in a subsection of a longer note and the title of the subsection is “bad economics, potentially good politics.”
Barclays goes on to note that because the tax cuts and deregulatory push do represent “successes” (although again, neither of those things benefit everyday Americans), Trump may now feel like he has some leeway to push the envelope.
“Having achieved some success elsewhere in his agenda (eg, tax cuts, deregulatory efforts, conservative judicial appointments), the president may now be willing to engage in more controversial measures such as tariffs,” Barclays goes on to write, before adding this important caveat:
This strategy may not work, though. The steel and aluminum manufacturing industries are smaller employers than the industries that use these metals as inputs (Figure 1). Over time, tariffs may be deleterious to regions where Trump enjoys strong support.
Right. As usual, Trump is just playing for short-term gains and worse, it’s by no means clear that the short-term gains he’s aiming for are what the workers in the steel and aluminum industries think they are. Trump doesn’t care about those people. He’s just trying to engineer some support for himself and potentially for the GOP ahead of the mid-terms.
And hell, can you blame him? After all, if the presidential election were held today, Politico’s polling suggests he’d lose to this “guy”…