Via Angry Bear

This is how the NY Times has presented things day before yesterday, apparently lamenting that the Dem candidates are going to have a tough time presenting themselves as “tougher on trade than Trump.”  This somehow presumes that this is what they must do to win the election, and at least one has been making virtually this claim: good old Bernie.  A few have mumbled vaguely about Trump hurting farmers in the Midwest, but not too loudly as it seems that hardly any of them have anything that can be called clear positions on the  trade issue. Really the only one so far more than Bernie is Elizabeth Warren, who at least is tying trade deals to strong environmental and labor conditions, including imposing border fees on other nations with lower taxes on carbon emissions than the US.  Of course, this is currently a bit farcical given that it is the US that generally has the lower such enforcement, although she is proposing to tighten that up.

Of course, Trump has gone all gonzo on the trade issue, having it both ways, if not more.  So he announced more tariffs on Chinese goods, bragging that the Chinese are paying these and that he is succeeding in hurting China more than Americans.  But then after the stock market took one of its largest dives a week ago after he made this announcement, and lots of commentators started predicting a recession, he delayed some of these until after the Christmas shopping season, suddenly apparently realizing that it is American consumers who actually pay the tariff.  His sudden fear of possible recession has even led to mumblings about possible new tax cuts, including even for fica payroll taxes, although this has since been denied.

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This reminds me of one of the least remembered episodes from the Obama administration.  A part of the fiscal stimulus Obama engineered was a temporary fica payroll tax cut.  Curiously a few years later when he undid those cuts, the most eager supporters of reimposing the old higher tax rates were the GOP members of Congress, although they did not speechify about it.  But then, doing so would have made it clear how hypocritical all of their talk about never supporting tax increases was.

Barkley Rosser