Donald Trump may well “win” his trade war with China. The reality is there will be no true winners; some parties will lose worse than others but America as a whole may be less bloodied than China. If the bluster does turn into a full blown trade war (which is difficult to tell with a coward/bully/bullshit artist like Trump) there will be significant American casualties even in “victory”. Let’s explore.
Thus far the vast majority of the tariffs haven’t evolved from the announcement to the implementation stage. It appears Trump will allow more exemptions than Cadet Bone Spurs received during the Vietnam War. When the stock market is threatening to tank Trump sends out stooges like Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin to say it is all just a negotiating tactic. That has lessened the damage to a couple of 2% down days.
Trump himself keeps repeating the lie that our trade deficit with China is $500 billion; a $160 billion exaggeration. To put that in perspective, $160 billion is about the GDP of Qatar.
Let’s get this discussion a little closer to home. Specifically let’s take some guesses at which American households will be hurt the most. It certainly won’t be the Trump household. Extremely wealthy households like that were insulated a few months ago by the Trump Tower Tax Cut. As a high income household they spend a sliver of their income on necessities like food and clothing; so the increases that are certain to come are rounding errors to them.
To the uber-wealthy stock market fluctuations are theoretically a greater threat. The real in crowd will benefit from inside information via Trump’s in bed telephone conversations with his cronies. Want an example? I offer former Trump Administration official Carl Icahn. Besides, they were already insulated by the Trump Tower Tax Cut. In fact they may actually profit from some “insightful” stock trades; again ask Carl.
There will be a few odd businesses that will thrive in the new environment and they will employ some people who otherwise might be unemployed or underemployed. I’m certain that Trump and company will repeatedly and loudly let us know who they are. On net we will experience business closings, job losses and much lower discretionary disposable income (DDI).
Joe Lunchbucket will see his cost of living rise. You see Joe is the one who actually pays the tariff, not someone in some far away land. The cost of goods in the big box stores Joe frequents will rise. That means Joe will have less money to spend on “luxury goods”. That translates to stores closing. With those store closings employees and suppliers lose jobs. Those new surpluses in the labor supply will not only depress consumer demand it will suppress wages. Why give your current employee a raise when you have a stack of applications on your desk?
If the negative repercussions hit soon enough and are noticed in the media (which I doubt) another set of casualties will be Congressional Republicans running for reelection in November. Trump doesn’t care about them either. Trump is very much a short run guy. He is also obsessed with the media. Therefore he is much more concerned with keeping Russiagate and Stormy Daniels out of the headlines than he is about some vulnerable Republican member of Congress.
There will be American causalities, of that there is no doubt. The only questions are how many will there be, will you be one of them and if so, how severely will you be impacted.
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