For the past 16 months, President Trump has denied a basic tenet of macroeconomics: Tariffs have historically raised prices on businesses and consumers, and reduced economic growth. On Tuesday, Trump’s narrative changed, albeit slightly.
“We are doing this for the Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. consumers,” Trump told reporters after the White House delayed some new tariffs on Chinese imports. “… Just in case they might have an impact on people, what we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so they won’t be relevant for the Christmas shopping season.”
Since Trump first imposed tariffs on some Chinese imports in January 2018, he has stuck to three core talking points:
- The tariffs will only help the United States.
- The tariffs will help reduce the U.S. trade deficit.
- China, not the United States, pays the cost of the tariffs.
Except tariffs have probably hampered U.S. economic output, and the trade deficit is near an all-time high. On Tuesday, Trump acknowledged what multiple studies have long said: U.S. businesses and consumers are paying for the tariffs.
After Tuesday’s about-face, Trump officials quickly followed suit, which you can watch in the video above.
After previously downplaying the effect of tariffs on U.S. consumers, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Wednesday called Trump’s reversal a “Christmas present to the nation,” and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said “nobody wants to take any chance of disrupting the Christmas season.” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has defended Trump’s tariffs despite previously calling tariffs a tax on U.S. consumers.
Left unsaid by Trump officials: If the tariffs were not hurting U.S. businesses or consumers and were paid for by China, why would Trump need to delay them for U.S. shoppers?
Trump did not say.