Is Trump Lying or Just Clueless about Tariffs?

Anyone who pays attention to what Trump says on a regular basis is already aware of this doozy:

Trump has doubled down on the claim that China pays tariffs to the U.S. as if we are getting revenue from the Chinese government. In fact, American importers pay the higher prices imposed by Trump’s administration. Ultimately, American businesses frequently raise prices which hurts consumers, especially those in the lowest income brackets.

Larry Kudlow grudgingly admitted that China isn’t paying the tariffs.

Here is one of Trump’s Ohio 2016 voters coming to his senses and realizing Trump has made a mess of things.

Of course, China is not paying duties on imported goods imposed by the U.S. administration. American businesses are. Is Trump lying or is he really that clueless?

I don’t know. There are good reasons to believe either possibility. He lies easily but he also is so narcissistic that he thinks he is right when he is clearly wrong. Either way, this issue illustrates that Trump is simply incompetent. I look forward to the defense strategies of his sheep.

93 thoughts on “Is Trump Lying or Just Clueless about Tariffs?”

  1. Most likely clueless, but in a strong dose of irony, Trump got the Democrats to make the Republican argument on taxes–that higher taxes on businesses ultimately hurt consumers because consumers pay higher prices to cover the tax. Businesses don’t pay taxes; people pay taxes.

    Next time that someone cries about “corporate welfare,” remember that this proves the point that low tax conservatives have been making and that Democrats now agree with.

    It’s also notable that Dems have long complained about cheap Chinese imports hurting American jobs and wages, but when Trump took steps to change that, the Dems appear to suddenly change their minds about it.

    The answer to not paying the tariff is to employ people to manufacture here in the US. But then you have to pay higher wages which means consumers pay higher prices. So stopping low price Chinese imports to protect American jobs sounds good until someone actually does it.

    1. Trump got the Democrats to make the Republican argument on taxes–that higher taxes on businesses ultimately hurt consumers because consumers pay higher prices to cover the tax. Businesses don’t pay taxes; people pay taxes.

      What? There is so much wrong that it makes almost no sense. First, this isn’t a “tax”. It’s a tariff. The difference is that taxes are levied on corporate profits. While tariffs are applied to the *cost* of the product. So, in that sense, corporate taxes don’t “hurt” the business. They still make money and can sell just as much, but don’t take in as much profit. Or if they make less money, they pay less taxes.

      With a tariff, the cost of the product or part goes up, so the business importing the material is hurt. They have to raise prices to maintain profit margins. As a result, prices go up and consumers pay more and/or buy less. If a company can’t maintain their profit margins, it may not even make sense for them to be in business. Or, if the company is selling less product, they could even lay people off as a result.

      So, that’s one. But, even if you got the mechanics right, you’re still presenting a strawman of what Democrats argue. Democrats don’t argue that higher corporate taxes have zero affect on the economy, because of course they do. They are saying that when Exon and Amazon not only pay zero dollars in taxes but receive rebates, in other words, the tax payers are subsidizing *them*, that there’s something wrong with the tax code. *That’s* corporate welfare.

      Also, the percentage of that tax burden that companies pay toward the federal budget has been dropping for decades. That, of course, leaves an ever increasing burden on families whose wages, on average, have not risen to compensate. These two types of corporate welfare also make up a much bigger part of the economy that things like SNAP that Republican love to complain about and share individual stories of fraud and abuse that, even if true, amount to hundreds of dollars.

      Also, yes, Dems have long complained about cheap Chinese goods. That doesn’t mean every step to change that is a good one. Trade wars are stupid and have never historically resulted in economic prosperity for anyone.

      1. First, a tariff is a tax. It’s right in the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. It is on cost, not profits, but it is a tax.

        Second, taxes can hurt businesses, but more importantly, they hurt consumers. Businesses have no money except what they get from consumers. So if they pay taxes, they charge the consumer for them in terms of a higher product cost. When higher taxes mean the consumer will no longer buy the product, the business is hurt and can even shut down. This is basic economics.

        Third, I didn’t present a strawman. You didn’t even read what I said, apparently. I didn’t say that Democrats argue “that higher corporate taxes have zero affect on the economy.” Democrats have long complained about corporate tax cuts and cutting the corporate rate.
        Now, when a company pays a higher tax (something they have wanted), they realize that the tax will get passed on to the consumer and the consumer will pay more. That is standard conservative argument that has been made for a very long time.

        When you do away with corporate welfare, people assume everything else stays the same and X number of dollars will pour in. Perhaps, but if you do away with that “corporate welfare” guess who will start paying those costs? Yes, that’s right. The consumer. Exxon and Amazon have no money without consumers. And those consumers might stop buying those products.

        I think trade wars are stupid as well.

        In the end, tax policy is complex. But it can’t be legitimately denied that the Democrats are presently making the standard conservative argument about taxes.

  2. I suspect that it’s a case of willful ignorance. I’m sure that many economists have told him that he’s wrong about who is getting stung by tariffs, but he doesn’t want to believe it. So he doesn’t, and he continues to insist that China is paying the tariffs that the US is imposing. Too many of his devoted followers aren’t educated enough, or curious enough, to figure out that he’s wrong.

    1. So, as a result on high tariffs on China, American businesses are forced to increase the prices of their products, in order to sustain the competition, which hurts the consumers. In the video shown here, this is what is happening with Huggies. If this is the case, then Huggies and another American business must increase their supplies, and it will lower the prices. Whenever there is a high supply and high demand, prices for consumers tend to go down. If there is a low supply but high demand, then we will have economic problems. Perhaps, Trump is trying to play a risky game.

      1. In my opinion, the only game Trump is playing is pigeon chess: the one where the pigeon knocks the pieces onto the floor, poops all over the board, then struts around like he won, anyway.

        1. You just accurately described sam80’s rhetorical strategy, on full display throughout Dr. Throckmorton’s comment sections.

          1. Yes, the Thought Police are deeply offended by accurate descriptions of their own rhetorical strategies. Can’t have that. /s

          2. ortotierra just can’t make winning arguments, so he attacks those who make them.

          3. I believe I have always won my arguments, judging how instead of answering questions that I ask, people start running away and throwing tantrums.

          4. As usual, sam80 offers nothing but lies, deception, derailment, and obfuscation. Self-serving false witness and moral relativism on full display throughout Dr. Throckmorton’s comment section.

            Did you know sam80 claims to be enrolled in “several” graduate courses right now? I’d be interested in learning the names of the professors who wrote him recommendation letters for graduate admissions process. Bet we certainly won’t get those names, let alone the names of the professors currently teaching sam80 in his “several” graduate seminars.

          1. To be fair, most people I play Checkers with don’t actually understand the rules to Checkers.

      2. I tried to ignore this, but my mind kept coming back to the Huggies, which wasn’t in one of the 2 videos linked in the OP. WTF are you talking about – Huggies & what other American business should raise their supplies in order to lower prices?

        Below is a chart showing the US birthrate from 1980-2018. You can see where we have reached a record low in the number of births. Please, please, please, explain to me how Huggies making more Huggies that no one will ever buy, will lower the prices of Huggies. As far as I can see, that’s not a risky game, it’s a losing one. Source of chart: Axios

        1. I heard the guy in the video American importers mention Huggies. I was just using them as example, in terms of supply and demand and I said hypothetically that whenever there is high supply and high demand, prices go down. With Huggies, we are not going to make a lot of money because, the demand is very low. But what about other American products?

  3. Just to be clear in case anyone reading still has doubts, I have personally cut big checks from my own American bank account to pay these tariffs, which have been applied in the past (though not this time) after shipments were already inbound meaning I had to borrow the money to pay them because they were a big surprise.

    At least I deducted every last penny as a business expense.

  4. In my Asia Pacific relations class, I was told that Trump wants to increase tariffs on products that are manufactured in China and being brought to be sold in the US. There is a debate whether it would weaken China’s economy and whether China is a legitimate rival to America’s superpower status.

    1. This has already happened and according to the farmer is already hurting farmers.

    2. “In my Asia Pacific relations class,”

      I thought you got kicked out of school several years ago?

      1. sam80 imagines he’s currently enrolled in “several” graduate courses.

      2. I am currently taking several graduate courses on politics and international relations.

      3. You know what happens when you stop feeding a stray dog? I think that’s where we are at here.

          1. I think I’m going to do the same. I’ve only blocked one other person in all the years I’ve been commenting here, but he really is nothing but a troll.

          2. I don’t see how sam80 has time for all his trolling while enrolled in “several” graduate courses. Not “a couple,” not “a few,” but “several.”

        1. All things considered, maybe we can use a different example 🙂

          How about don’t feed the clueless?

      1. I have never taken that class, but in the class that I am taking on Asia, we discuss different researches on whether China is an economic threat to the US and whether Trump’s approaches to it are rational.

  5. I have never seen anyone so willfully ignorant as Trump. He stopped learning about 40 years ago, and believes there’s nothing anyone can teach him.

    So in this circumstance, I vote for clueless. Remember, this is the guy who thinks NATO members pay “dues” (which they do, but only for running its administration, and those are quite small). But when he started bragging about “billions pouring in” from NATO members after he made his threats, that was a lie. NATO members are supposed to spend a certain amount of their GDP on defense (a small amount, to be sure), but they spend that in their own defense budgets, they don’t hand the money to anyone, and certainly not us.

    His simple-mindedness is in evidence when he talks about American companies being able to make the things we get from China. We can’t, not at those prices. Occasionally I pick up Chinese electronics items on eBay. Their prices can run from $35.00 to a few hundred, and there is no way an American company could duplicate them at anything as cheap a price as the Chinese. We have to pay more for materials that are USA-sourced, the factories that once drove our manufacturing closed decades ago, and they aren’t tooled properly anyway. “Made in U.S.A.” is rarely seen, replaced with “Designed in the U.S.A.” and “Assembled in China”.

    That kind of industry is gone here. (Most of the British manufacturers I’m familiar with also stopped building their products in the U.K..) It makes no economic sense, and people would revolt at the prices native-built products would cost us. And the Chinese know it.

    Farmers are beginning to understand just how terribly incompetent Trump is. They hear him talk, then look at the facts on the ground, then add up all the damage he is doing, and it’s plain. By and large, farmers aren’t stupid. They know a lot, and live with a fickle means of making a living. Above all, they can see a bottom line from a mile away. What they’re seeing now is horrifying.

    1. Products cannot be manufactured as often in the US because our wages are higher- even though inadequate – and wages for Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian, Vietnamese, etc. are poverty wages. This doesn’t mean we should reduce our wages to bring back m ore manufacturing- but it should inspire our leaders to work on trade agreements that bring all nation’s wages up to a livable standard.
      Donald Trump would never concern his selfish self with anything like this.

        1. Insipid 45 will never be able to negotiate any improvement in the current situation . He is a cream puff. Looks crusty on the outside – but liquid , runny, soft on the inside.

      1. I completely agree that the wage and environmental differences should be the basis of our trade pacts, it would be consistent both economically and ethically with how we practice industry here.

    2. There are ways to make Chinese pricing competitive to our own as part of a trade deal. For instance, the amended NAFTA creates a $15/hour minimum wage for Mexican auto workers working on cars exported to the US. This is the kind of thing that makes me like Trump in spite of his, well, self.

      1. China is not going to suddenly agree to make their worker wages competitive with ours. That will never happen in my lifetime or yours. Their wages are what got them to the point they are now. Why would they give that up?

        1. They would do it if it were better than the alternative, which appears to be losing all access to the plurality of the global consumer market that is American.

          1. To do that would require them to massively raises prices on their goods, erasing their competitive advantage.

            They didn’t get where they are by paying workers the way we do.

          2. Tariffs also erase a competitive advantage, so if the tariffs cause more damage than the wage hike a rational actor would choose the wage hike. The challenge for the US then is to raise the tariffs high enough.

          3. Tariffs are almost never a good idea, and these are particularly stupid. They demonstrate he knows nothing of economics.

          4. Tariffs are such a bad idea that every country has them on almost every product imported by almost every other country. Oversimplifications like what you just said are extraordinarily unhelpful. Almost as unhelpful as the word “stupid” is in polite conversation.

            If tariffs are “stupid” then that must make you smarter than every nation in the world. Or perhaps the situation is much less simple than “tariffs bad, orange man bad”.

          5. “Stupid” is a perfectly appropriate word to describe a bad policy. I didn’t use it to describe you, though I might rethink that. I didn’t realize you were such a snowflake.

            They are the opposite of free trade, something Republicans, for example, seem to have forgotten. Then again, ideological and economic consistency have been left behind by current Republicans, who today are more of a cult than anything else. This is because they are in thrall to a strongman. The upside of that, to the extent there is one, is that once Trump is gone the party will likely disintegrate. Strongman regimes rarely survive the death or removal of the strongman. The downside is that it takes a long time for a country to recover from the damage done, if it can recover at all.

            If you like protectionist, anti-trade, and harmful economic policies, then great. If you want to damage or destroy American farmers, then you will be very pleased with tariffs.

      2. I’m just going to point out here that the amendments to NAFTA are for the most part the same ones the left and unions had been pushing for for years, and that Hillary and others had said they would focus on. NAFTA needed a minor set of updates (mostly around intellectual property and technology), it got that, and you’ll note virtually no one on the left objected to anything other than his tactics in doing so.

        1. Yes, I actually voted for Trump because I thought he was more pro-labor than Clinton. I voted for him from the left. He was also pro-LGBT before he was inaugurated.

          1. I cannot understand this position at all. People who took his words, selectively, and ignored all of his actions and the times he said the opposite, were the largest fools of all. Trump has been terrible towards labor his entire career, while Clinton has been a huge supporter. Trump has said all sorts of things about LGBTQ issues, Clinton has consistently supported them. People had to be only selectively hearing what they wanted to hear to come to the conclusion that he was to the left of Clinton on either issue.

          2. Somehow I don’t see Clinton getting Mexico to agree to $15/hour minimum wages on cars and launching a trade war with China for labor.

            You don’t strike me as a very fair minded person. “People who took his words, selectively, and ignored all of his actions and the times he said the opposite, were the largest fools of all.” Or alternately, they ignored nothing and weighed the evidence differently than you to reach a different conclusion. That would be the civil way to interpret it, rather than just calling people names and assuming their thought processes are deficient.

          3. Weird, because minimum wages on trade partners have been a Democratic party position for literally decades and have never been a part of the Republican party platform. No idea why you think Clinton wouldn’t have pushed for that were she in office, its literally part of what she personally supports and her party has backed for virtually her entire career, and was a theme of the 2016 Democratic primary. I agree, she wouldn’t have done something as stupid as launching a trade war, with China or anyone else, given that those have a history of turning out poorly.

            It’s fair to point out that ignoring how someone acts in favor of selective rhetoric is foolish. And his time in office has proved that observation correct.

          4. Her husband had all the leverage in the world with the Most Favored Nation status he granted China to get minimum wages through there and he didn’t. So it is not at all “weird” as you put it for me to suspect his closest associate would not bother either.

            The unfair part about your statement wasn’t your reaction to someone ignoring something, but rather the use of telepathic powers to know the internal thought processes of others, to know what facts they ignored rather than weighed differently than you. It’s not fair to use telepathy on people who can’t use it back.

          5. 1) Hillary’s husband is not Hillary, we don’t generally hold a person’s spouse as an indicator of much
            2) His deal with China was when there was a considerably different relationship, and a considerably different trajectory for China, with an economy that was only a fraction of today. No reason at that time to do the things you suggest.

            As to the other, again, you are the one who stated you thought Trump would attempt to implement the Democratic Party objectives. That is ludicrous. Yes, I believe anyone who thinks Trump, who did the exact opposite throughout his entire business career, running on the ticket of a party that opposes everything you stated, would do those things is a fool. And time has born that out as he has done nothing but devastate farmers and hindered the economy.

          6. Hillary defended a rapist during her business career – does that make her pro-rape, or did she just do it for money?

            “That is ludicrous” Actually it’s rational, and you just disagree with it.

            “Yes, I believe anyone who thinks Trump, who did the exact opposite throughout his entire business career, running on the ticket of a party that opposes everything you stated, would do those things is a fool.”

            Then you are blocked. I’m not wasting my time carrying on discussions with incredibly bigoted people who have yet to learn that reasonable minds can disagree.

          7. It’s a lawyers job to defend a client, and good lawyers often defend the worst clients because the process is important to them. Often those clients have little or no money, there is a reason public defenders exist.

            And yes, its ludicrous to support someone who has literally done the opposite of everything you claim to support in the belief that they will somehow do a 180.

            Happy to be on your block list. Your mind does not seem to be reasonable at all.

  6. Trump is both. He is lying when he says china is paying the tariffs and he is clueless because he thinks anyone can “win” a trade-war.

    1. At best it is 19th century economics being applied to a 21st century economy.

      1. No, the REASON a trade war is “unwinnable” has nothing to do with finite markets. It is because both sides LOSE. This trade war as the potential to throw the US back into a recession. Further, if China finds other suppliers for agricultural products it currently gets from the US then the US farmers may never recover from it.

        China has already been investing in several african countries (ex. kenya, nigeria, congo etc), by doing this they are developing other potential customers for chinese goods. While the US under Trump is becoming more isolationist.

        so yes, this trade war may hurt the US more than china, but no one “wins.”

        1. Yes, the definition of victory determines whether victory is achievable. If the definition of winning a trade war is “it doesn’t hurt anything” then no one wins them. If the definition of winning a trade war is “achieving more favorable terms in a trade treaty” then they are definitely winnable.

          Such shouting, btw.

          1. and what if those “more favorable terms” don’t ever make up for what you lost in the “war” (ex. reduced reliance on US goods)? A pyrrhic victory is not a win.

  7. I’d say some of both honestly. He also believes trade deficits are a bad thing and us getting ripped off, which is false and stupid. He’s been making claims like this for decades, in the 80’s he was saying all the same garbage about Japan.

    1. Both trade deficits and surpluses are bad long-term. Germany’s trade surplus has set off debt crises across the entire periphery of Europe; you can’t keep trade surpluses up forever because eventually your trading partners run out of currency and you have to either bail them out or suffer a massive deflationary event that kills your own economy. Germany has chosen a mix of both fates, and so has China.

    2. Both trade deficits and surpluses are bad long-term. Germany’s trade surplus has set off debt crises across the entire periphery of Europe; you can’t keep trade surpluses up forever because eventually your trading partners run out of currency and you have to either bail them out or suffer a massive deflationary event that kills your own economy. Germany has chosen a mix of both fates, and so has China. What do you think One Belt One Road is?

      1. As far as I understand, it is about China setting up routes of connections through land and sea with neighboring developing nations, such as Nepal and even Sri Lanka, by providing them aid and building infrastructure, especially railways. So far China has made about 70 countries as their clients. But the problem is that they all become indebted to China and don’t really develop themselves.

        1. OBOR is the bailout that comes after trade surpluses are sustained for too long.

          1. Haven’t you heard? sam80 claims to be enrolled in “several” graduate courses. Not “a couple,” not “a few,” but “several.”

          2. I took five or six at a time at the doctorate level. I wouldn’t do it again though, it’s too similar to the Protestant version of Hell. Half of my receded hairline came from it and the rest was the five years I worked on a trading floor.

          3. Five or six at the same time is a joke. You either fooled your professors or fooled yourself or both. sam80 isn’t fooling anyone.

          4. 15 credit hours per semester is the average for my degree program unless you do summer school.

          5. Your doctoral degree program must not require reading and/or writing. Maybe that’s how they can justify such a ridiculous schedule–simply eliminate the reading and writing? And then it’s not really doctoral study, just a masquerade, isn’t it?

          6. M.D.’s and J.D.’s take more credit hours than other programs. Perhaps the very high entrance requirements explain it.

          7. With advanced technology, and a flexible timeframe, I am doing a combination of classroom and online learning, which gives me plenty of time. It’s the 21st century!

      2. There is little evidence that deficits or surpluses with any given country are bad long term because economies do not depend entirely on a single external customer or supplier, and external trade is only a fraction of any given economy to begin with. In a global economy you will always run consistent surpluses with some and consistent deficits with others, depending on both the types of good your nation produces and the nature of the economies of your trading partners. Whether it is good or bad for your nation on an individual basis depends on a constantly shifting set of priorities.

        There are multiple defensible ways to erect barriers with China that are far more justifiable than tariffs. For instance, instituting trade policies that require similar levels of worker rights, environmental protections and so on would accomplish much the same effect without taxing US consumers, plus it would be globally defensible.

        1. I was referencing testimony by German economists in the Bundestag, lamenting the trade surplus they have with everyone. That does eventually cause problems.

          1. Going to need more evidence than random testimony. Also, the US is not in danger of running a surplus with ‘everyone’, as a global player we run surpluses and deficits with various countries around the world, plus have an incredibly strong consumer and business economy of our own. There is little to no evidence this is a problem.

          2. Look, if you believe long-term trade surpluses or deficits are good then that makes you special. That’s all I can say.

          3. If by ‘special’ you mean ‘in the mainstream of economic theory’, then sure, I’m special. Economies are far more complicated than simplistic measures such as surplus or deficit in terms of trade. They are also not of fixed size, so long as economic output exceeds what is ‘lost’ in trade, the economy can grow despite a sustained deficit. Plus, of course, overall the US only runs a fairly minor trade deficit globally, around $600b out of a $20.6t sized economy. It simply isn’t enough to matter either way.

          4. Here is Bernanke explaining why long-term external surpluses in the context of a managed exchange rate are bad:


            In passing he points out how your “mainstream economic theory” is dissonant with the thinking of the G20.

            I understood this when it was written in 2015 which is among the reasons I voted for Trump, because he was the only possible other than Sanders who was even talking about doing something about it (and I would’ve voted for Sanders too if he had made it).

          5. Here is Bernanke explaining why long-term external surpluses in the context of a managed exchange rate are bad:


            In passing he points out how your “mainstream economic theory” is dissonant with the thinking of the G20.

            I understood this when it was written in 2015 which is among the reasons I voted for Trump, because he was the only possible other than Sanders who was even talking about doing something about it (and I would’ve voted for Sanders too if he had made it).

          6. You realize that you picked a scenario that couldn’t be more different than the US, right? Per that article Germany runs a trade surplus that is about 7% of the German economy. The US runs a trade deficit of 3% of our economy. Unclear why you are using that example. Also, again, Bernanke is welcome to his opinion but he is not necessarily right and this really is not generally perceived as a problem. The real issue in Germany is that the rate of export is larger than their entire economic growth rate, which implies the domestic market is shrinking. That is not a problem here at all and in no way justifies what Trump is trying to do.

            But I am glad you found one mainstream economist you can agree with in a scenario that is nothing like the United States.

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