Congress Must Take Authority On Tariffs, Trade
President Donald Trump ramped up his tariff-based trade war over the last week trying to gin up another $15 billion in subsidies for commodity farmers who are getting crushed by retaliatory tariffs imposed by China. According to Trump, he plans to use some of the $100 billion or more in tariffs that, he claims, China has paid to the U.S. Treasury. That, of course, is not how it works. Tariffs on foreign goods are paid at the point of entry by U.S. importers, who pass on the costs to consumers as part of the product price. Trump’s tariffs are a massive tax increase. Now, after already orchestrating $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, he plans another $15 billion. So, U.S. consumers already paying the massive tax increase created by the tariffs also must foot the bill for Trump pandering to one of his most important political constituencies. The negative impact also is spinning off into related industries. JP Morgan this week downgraded the stock of John Deere, the big farm equipment manufacturer, warning that the agricultural sector is “rapidly deteriorating.” Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a farmer, lead a group of his colleagues this week in questioning the tariff policy, but he should not leave it at that. The Constitution has given most tax and trade authority to Congress, but Trump is able to abuse it only because Congress has ceded much of that power to the executive branch in response to temporary crises, and has failed to reclaim it. That is why Trump says he will impose major tariffs on imported vehicles on the preposterous grounds that importing the vehicles imperils national security. Congress should reclaim its authority over tariffs and trade to protect U.S. consumers from further Trump tax increases.