Tariff Revenues Aren’t Covering the Cost of Trump’s Trade War

Tariff Revenues Aren’t Covering the Cost of Trump’s Trade War

Bob Riha Jr

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the tariffs President Trump has imposed on Chinese imports have generated $20.8 billion so far, Ana Swanson and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Trump has portrayed this revenue as a great victory, with billions of dollars “pouring into the coffers of the U.S.A.” But Swanson and Tankersley point out that the president has committed about $28 billion to payments for American farmers hurt by his trade war, leaving a net loss just on that basis alone.

And the economic cost is no doubt considerably larger, since farmers aren’t the only ones being hurt by the tariffs, Swanson and Tankersley said, citing “myriad other businesses, including plane makers, technology companies and medical device manufacturers, that have lost contracts and revenue as a result of Mr. Trump’s tariffs and China’s retaliation against American goods.” And despite Trump’s insistence that Chinese firms are paying the tariffs, they are in fact coming out of the pockets of American consumers and manufacturers.

Writing in The Washington Post Tuesday, economists Chad P. Bown and Douglas A. Irwin note that tariffs were once a significant source of federal government revenues, but haven’t been so for about 100 years, as you can see in the chart below.