The Dow has dropped almost 1000 points (-3.6%) in the past week due to worries about Donald Trump’s trade war with China. To be fair, that’s not as bad as the 11% drop the market suffered on the eve of Trump’s government shutdown last December. But, the trading week is still young.
Anyway, it’s been fascinating to follow what some Trump supporters have been saying on Twitter and other media about this escalating war. Of course, Trump himself has said trade wars are good and easy to win, that his tariffs are forcing China to pay back billions of dollars that it has unfairly taken from America. The picture he paints is gain, with no pain.
At the same time, Trump critics -- and others who are not ignorant of economics -- have been happily pointing out that, in fact, it’s American companies or consumers who pay the costs of tariffs. Even Larry Kudlow, Trump’s TV economic adviser, had to admit something like this on Fox News over the weekend. And now I’ve been seeing some comments from Trump supporters pop up on Twitter conceding the point that Trump’s trade policies do hurt Americans, but that this pain is an acceptable cost of a trade war. As they see it, Trump voters -- for example Midwest dairy farmers -- are happy to sacrifice their livelihood, if that helps to punish China for its infringement of US intellectual property rights. It goes without saying that compulsory pain and sacrifice for the greater good is not what Trump promised them. Maybe Trump should have been more honest with them. But who are we kidding? They probably still love him anyway.
Make no mistake, the stealing of IP by China is a serious issue. And perhaps we should be grateful that Wisconsin dairy farmers are willing to risk losing family farms to put a stop to it. On the other hand, they are also being rewarded for their sacrifice with billions of taxpayer money, so that surely helps.
And as Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has reminded us, it’s not as if anyone is sacrificing their lives (yet) in this trade war, the way US soldiers do every day for the cause of...something...not sure what, exactly...but something anyway.
So, if anyone suffers a loss in the stock market (and I don’t mean just Wall Street types, but also the forgotten men and women of forgotten West Virginia), they shouldn’t take it too hard and just be happy that they’re doing their part in Trump's unstinting campaign to stick it to the Chinese and make them share America’s pain.