# Kindergarten Arithmetic 101: Analysis of the Trade Debate

-edited

One mish reader stands out. He offers a real world example of what happens when trade collapses.

Kindergarten Arithmetic 101

If Trump extends his wall to cover the entire border, instead of just the one shared with Mexico, and then bans or punitively tariffs every single good that uses steel as an input, recursively, as well; he just may succeed in driving up the domestic price of final goods, to the point where both nominal labor compensation and nominal raw materials prices can be increased at the same time.

In doing so, he will ensure that not a single American made product of any kind, will be internationally competitive over time. This is exactly what the Latin American import substituting “structuralists” did, back in the 50s and 60s.

The above analysis from reader "Stuki" is obviously correct.

Disappointingly, there is debate over the obvious. And that's not the only flaw of economic illiterates.

Mathematical Explanation of Deficits

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

I hope we can agree that the equal enforcement of the rule of law is good. After all, the exponential increase we have witnessed in corruption and hubris is the direct result of the perpetrators believing they can get away with their behavior.

If countries believe they can take advantage of our consumerism without consequences, they will continue their behavior. How is it helpful for our products to be taxed and made less competitive? If we can stop them from taxing our products by imposing a reciprocal tax, why is this bad? If the consequence is some of the products that we don't need anyway become to expensive and keep us from buying the crap and save instead, then I call that a twofor.

Whether you are a free trade advocate or not, it is shocking that people would support this increase in costs for US manufacturers, which will make them less competitive against foreign manufacturers. The net result will be less investment in US manufacturing, and fewer jobs. This is not a job protection policy, it is a job killer in the US.

Realist -- it could end up that way, but not necessarily. Remember President Trump's earlier admonition to the German automobile manufacturers -- If you want to sell your cars in the US, then build them in the US ! One of the big problems in the past has been the extreme layer(s) of job-killing redundant & contradictory regulations and arcane tax rules, which made it very difficult to build a new plant in the US. Notice that while all the smartest people have been telling each other in loud voices that the President is an idiot, he has been assiduously removing some of those pointless regulations. Maybe this time the tariffs will result in more investment in the US, more jobs created, more people working, more taxes paid. Maybe !

What we know for sure is that what we have tried in the last 40 years, with unilateral disarmament on trade, has not worked. Maybe it is time for realists to try a different approach?

What we know for sure is that what we have tried in the last 40 years, with unilateral disarmament on trade, has not worked. Maybe it is time for realists to try a different approach?

The problem is that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t put up barriers and think that the other side will just lay down and take it. Instead of prosperity when we put up not-well-thought-through trade barriers, the most likely result is going to simply be that other countries will put up barriers against us in return, and then everyone loses. And this is not a new concept. Perhaps Trump should read this little-known book called “The Wealth of Nations”... oops, I forgot, he doesn’t really care much for reading.

If countries want to subsidize US taxpayers it is silly to object. If they gave the world free cars only a fool would object. Same with solar panels. It is like arguing about free light from the sun. Free stuff raises standards of living. This is undeniable.

Kinuachdrach said “Maybe this time the tariffs will result in more investment in the US, more jobs created, more people working, more taxes paid. Maybe !”
In 2002 Bush imposed steel tariffs and eliminated 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the US. The definition of insanity is trying the same stupid thing over and over, but expecting different results.
I am not American. Yet even I feel sorry for workers currently employed in US manufacturing. This policy will be another disaster, if implemented.

The problem with most anti-protectionist screeds is that they emphasize goods. Protecting intellectional Rights is just as important as the US is the intellectual properties leader of the world. The cost of focusing only on goods and not include intellectual costs is in excess of a trillion dollars per year.

Daaron; I agree. The future belongs to those with the brightest minds and ideas. Intellectual property is very important. But Trump looks at complex problems and can only see simple solutions, which actually make things worse. He thinks things like “steel good”, Mexico bad, tariffs good, Canada bad.