Although it’s probably safe to say that the recent decline in Donald Trump’s approval rating is tied to the deluge of bad press surrounding the President’s mounting legal woes, it’s worth noting that his waning popularity has also coincided with escalations on the trade front.
Monday evening marked the “official” announcement of duties on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, but the threat dates back months.
Even the prospect that the tariff rate applied in the new phase could be 25% as opposed to the initially proposed 10% is nearly two months old (reports that the White House was considering more than doubling the rate first surfaced in late July).
Trump has attempted to paper over the deleterious effects of the tariffs with the usual bombast, going so far as to put words in the mouths of America’s farmers even as China’s retaliatory tariffs take food from those same mouths. Recall this rather presumptuous bit from a July rally in Tampa:
Not all farmers are saying “it’s ok, we can take it.” In fact, nonprofit group Farmers for Free Trade ran an all-out media blitz aimed at raising awareness about just how bad these policies really are for U.S. agriculture, and the overarching message was that “no, we can’t take it, and we won’t take it.” The group spent some $2.5 million on the media push.
Don’t forget that China’s reciprocal tariffs forced the U.S. government to dust off Depression-era measures to assist American agriculture. Essentially, America’s farmers are now on welfare thanks to Trump’s policies.
On Tuesday morning, in the wake of the latest escalation, Trump took to Twitter to again suggest that China is the aggressor here when it comes to the farm belt.
“China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me”, the President shrieked, before suggesting that because farmers are “patriots” they’ll tough it out in the interest of perpetuating the MAGA mythology.
Of course Trump has also been keen to suggest that because Chinese stocks are falling while U.S. stocks are rising, the U.S. is “winning” the trade war. Never mind the fact that most of Trump’s base likely doesn’t own any stocks and thus doesn’t benefit from that disparity.
Given all of the above, there would be more than a little poetic justice involved if, due to the fact that trade escalations are pressuring the Shanghai Composite while simultaneously prompting the authorities in Beijing to get even more aggressive when it comes to targeting the U.S. farm belt, Trump’s approval rating started tracking Chinese stocks.
Let’s hope that admittedly spurious relationship holds, because if it does, we’ll all get a good laugh out of this clip…