Trump tariffs risk repeat of 1920s trade war

The article “Trump: ‘Trade wars are good, and easy to win‘ ” (March 3) shows how driven the myopic U.S. president is to fulfill a campaign promise by imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum. History shows, however, that such radically unconservative protectionism risks igniting the same sort of disastrous trade wars the United States foolishly fought in the 1920s.

Donald Trump’s populist/protectionist campaign promises have been shown to be mostly “fake news,” of course. His actual policies have followed standard Republican dogma, like his “thank you, rich donors” tax cuts. Now, though, Trump senses that some in his base might be catching on to his deception; he’s throwing them political red meat with the sudden tariffs announcement.

While campaigning, Trump barked nonstop populist/protectionist promises: Massive public works projects, deep middle class tax cuts and anti-corruption measures would return forgotten working class heros to factories, mills and mines, he declared. In his first year, he would pass a 35 percent middle class tax cut; announce a $1 trillion infrastructure plan; demand term limits for Congress members; and label China a currency manipulator.

Trump has done none of these. Ignorantly spouting about tariffs is his way to show his base that his economic policies haven’t ignored them — but mostly they have.

Ominously, Trump’s economic policies make the U.S. today look much like it did in the 1920s: Slashed regulations and shrinking oversight have created a booming stock market and rapidly growing income inequality. Adding stiff tariffs to that mix — exactly as the U.S. did in the 1920s to protect agriculture — risks a global trade war and a crushing worldwide economic collapse.

Everybody knows the horrors to which short-sighted 1920s protectionism contributed. Actually, since that involves understanding history, let me check: Mr. Trump, have you ever heard of the Great Depression, fascism, militarism or World War II?


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.