March 8—The Accidental President has announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum of 25 and 10 percent, respectively. The tariffs, essentially a tax on imports, will protect steel and aluminum producers from cheaper foreign products, while adding to the costs of manufacturers who use steel and aluminum in the products they make. These costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for everything from canned goods to automobiles and appliances. Most economists consider such tariffs to be counterproductive, moreso when applied to our friend and allies, though some on the left favor protectionism for American manufacturers. The effect of the measure is rapidly being diluted, however, as the Acciental President announces one exemption after another: Canada and Mexico top exporters of metals to the U.S., have already been exempted, and other friendly nations are lined up for the same treatment. China, the bete noir of Trump's unfair trade narrative, accounts for only 3 percent of imported U.S. steel. The measure is looking more and more like standard Trump fare: an ill thought out gesture, capturing media attention, the chief purpose of which is to present the illusion (and what an illusion it is!) that the Accidental President is doing something purposeful.
October 5, 2017—Reuters News Service offers seven useful charts that track the U.S. economy before and since January of 2017, particularly on those issues Trump campaigned on, like workforce participation, manufacturing jobs and growth. In the main, the charts show trend lines continuing in their long-term courses.
Economists all agree that at some point, borrowing by the federal government will create inflation and impede productivity and growth. Recent research finds, however, that the level at which government borrowing becomes problematic is certainly greater than what was once thought. With U.S. debt at near-record levels, and the tax plan being pushed by the Trump administration and its congressional allies likely to add more red ink to America's balance sheet, the question is more than academic. This New York Times piece looks at current thinking on the topic. (October 2018)
Median incomes are up for two consecutive years and unemployment down as the Obama recovery brings more jobs, higher wages and better health insurance coverage. But economic trends going back 50 years still thwart the efforts of many to achieve secure middle-class livelihoods. This New York Times piece by Patricia Cohen examines the issues.
Tax breaks for the rich, protectionism, giving away the commons to private developers, radically restricting immigration, the dumping of needed regulations and environmental protections will not improve the U.S. economy, writes NYU Stern School of Business professor Nouriel Roubini in this piece for The Guardian.