Jeffrey Dorfman’s recent essay for Forbes on Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs is titled, “On Steel Tariffs, the Math Just Doesn’t Add Up.”
But the math actually adds up just fine from the vantage of the connected rich. Tariffs are a form of crony capitalism. They protect a politically dialed-in minority and spread the harm across the majority.
We’ll all pay a little more for products with aluminum and steel in them to protect CEO friends of Trump in uncompetitive–but politically connected–industries, and Trump’s tariffs will be spun as a win for the workers in those industries, not the CEOs who will reap the bulk of the payouts from the tariffs.
So it’s a shell game akin to tax cuts (give the minority rich a tax cut and place the burden of it onto our grandchildren in the form of deficit spending).
Trump’s fondness for tariffs is thus part of his authoritarian impulse for gathering power to himself. It’s a move that forces individual capitalists and nations to crawl to the president and say, “Please exempt us from your tariff, Mr. President.” It hurts the overall economy, but not the friends of Trump.