Higher prices will result directly from tariffs the White House plans to impose on steel and aluminum imports from allies such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union as well as other countries. The White House acknowledges that effect, while arguing the price increases will be tiny.
But combined with additional tariffs against other imports from China and retaliatory steps by our trading partners, the measures [President] Trump announced promise to make an impact. And mainstream economists across the political spectrum agree it will be negative. …
[Moody’s Mark] Zandi calculates that the average American family will pay roughly $320 more this year as a result. Combined with higher prices due to tariffs, that would wipe out more than half the average tax cut of $930 that families in the middle 20 percent of American earners would receive in 2018, according to the Tax Policy Center.
And it would make net losers of families earning less than that. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the bottom 20 percent of earners will receive an average tax cut of just $60 this year; the 20 percent of earners above them, just $380.

Those who buy health-care insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges will also get hit. Axios reports: “The premium for an average ‘benchmark’ plan is 34% higher this year than in 2017, when the rules of the road had been set by the Obama administration. CBO expects premiums for the same set of plans to go up another 15% for 2019, then to level out at about 7% per year after that.” In short, middle- and lower-income Americans very well may wind up net losers, thanks to Trump’s economic plans.

The bigger danger is to the economy as a whole. The job numbers for May were excellent — 223,000 jobs added, the unemployment rate down to 3.8 percent — but the economy must keep growing to absorb new workers entering the workforce. Zandi estimated “the net effects of trade conflicts Trump has initiated at 0.2 percent in reduced economic growth, 250,000 in lost jobs, and $210 in higher costs for an average family. Such a reduction in growth would wipe out half the projected boost in growth from the tax cuts Trump and the GOP Congress enacted last December.”

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In the immediate future, tariffs have created a political problem for Republicans, even from traditionally red states. In Tennessee, former governor Phil Bredesen, the leading Democratic candidate to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and the state Democratic Party are going after the likely GOP nominee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, for her allegiance to the trade-war-starting president. “With her refusal to stand with Sens. [Lamar] Alexander and Corker against President Trump’s disastrous tariffs, Marsha Blackburn has again shown that her political ambition is more important to her than looking out for everyday Tennesseans,” Mark Brown, Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman, tells me. “‘Wait and See’ Marsha can’t risk her campaign fundraisers because Tennesseans need jobs.”

According to a local press report, Blackburn defensively insisted at a campaign appearance on Friday: “When there’s a policy difference, I generally speak up,” she said. “I reach out. I make the position known — what the position of Tennesseans is going to be on that issue.” She noted that she had spoken with Trump in the past about tariffs. Unfortunately, she seems not to have any sway with the president on tariffs, which both current GOP senators have condemned. The fault lies squarely with the GOP Senate majority and its leader, who will not challenge Trump; so long as Republicans control the Senate, Trump is unlikely to be checked. Bredesen is sure to make that a campaign theme.

Trump’s descent into mercantilism is so bad that it seems to have prompted the Koch brothers to take an appropriate and long-overdue step — start supporting Democrats who generally reflect their free-market economic views. Their political arm, Americans for Prosperity, is actually touting the performance of a Democrat for the Senate — incumbent Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The trigger for their ad was her vote to support a Dodd-Frank change that helps community banks, but her support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and criminal-justice reform, as well as her trade stance (in a farm and energy state where exports are key), also line up with the Koch brothers’ views. ( “Americans for Prosperity is backing Heitkamp, and the aid comes as the network as a whole is looking to push forward its policy initiatives through Congress regardless of party affiliation, including criminal justice reform and protection for those participating in the Deferred Action [for] Childhood Arrivals [program], who are also known as the Dreamers. It is also hoping to make inroads on cutting back on government spending.”)

The only way to curb the GOP’s self-destructive and decidedly un-conservative economic approach is to stop supporting its candidates who blindly follow Trump and his counterproductive ideas. If moderate, pro-business Democrats favor smart economic policies, why shouldn’t the Koch brothers support such candidates? Why shouldn’t all voters?

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