Trade, Comparative Advantage and Protectionism

I want to devote this entire podcast on the subject of trade and comparative advantage and protectionism, and this trade war that President Trump is so confident about.  He wants to declare war because he thinks we are going to win.  He’s a winner, and he wants America to win and so he wants to launch a trade war so that America can win.

The Trade Deficit is the Problem

I’ve been talking about how the trade deficits are at record highs.  We have the biggest trade deficits ever and Donald Trump, when he was a candidate rightly criticized these trade deficits. They are a huge problem. They are endemic of an even bigger problem, and Trump understands that.  He knows enough to realize that trade deficits are bad. I will give him credit where credit is due because most economists don’t even see the problem with these trade deficits. They are wrong. Trump is right. The trade deficit is a problem.

Tariffs Will Not Solve the Problem

But where Trump is wrong is in thinking that these tariffs are going to solve the problem.  They won’t.  They will make the problem worse.  This is the irony of these tariffs.  They will result in larger trade deficits, not smaller trade deficits. And that’s even without any foreign retaliation; meaning, if China, if Europe, if our trading partners do nothing in response to these tariffs, the result will be larger, not smaller deficits. Manufacturing jobs – the very jobs that Trump is hoping to save will be lost as a result of these tariffs.

Mr. Trump: Slash Regulations!

I wish someone in the Trump administration, would share this podcast with President Trump.  He needs to really this about economics, to understand what needs to be done.  If Trump really wants to shrink America’s trade deficit, there are ways to do that. He could slash regulations, not just talk about all the regulations, but actually slash a bunch of them.

Shrink Government

But the most important thing that Trump could do to make America more competitive in manufacturing is to shrink government.  We need to cut government spending on a massive scale.  We need to reform entitlements. These are things that President Trump doesn’t want to touch. He’s making government bigger.  What we need is more savings. We need more capital investment in plant and equipment – but that’s not happening. These larger deficits are going to crowd out what little investment we have.