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Is President Trump overplaying his tariff hand?

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Welcome to "Political Posturing," featuring opposing views on current issues important to Wisconsin's business community. In this column, small business owner Brad Werntz and blogger David Blaska offer their opinions from the left and the right, respectively.

Yes, because he doesn’t understand collateral damage.

By Brad Werntz

I like simple tools. They require basic understanding of the job and a mastery of the process. It doesn’t take genius to wield a screwdriver, a wrench, or a hammer, but craftsmen make art with anything at hand. In the hands of a master, a knife will play symphonies and an axe will sing songs, which is why less than a handful of simple tools are required for any decent toolkit.

Unless you’re going to war, of course. While any tool is a weapon if you hold it right, weapons of war are different. I prefer single-shot weapons, myself. You have to be sure of your target if you only have one shot, and if you miss there’s only minimal chance at creating collateral damage.

Soon after taking office, our president said (on Twitter, of course): “Trade wars are good and easy to win!”

Yet, the president clearly doesn’t understand how tariffs work. “Don’t worry, [China/Mexico] will pay for the tariffs” he says, as if tariffs are invoices that go to foreign governments and they’ll just send us a check. Any sixth-grade civics student knows that this isn’t how tariffs work, and that they are paid for by American consumers through increased costs on imported goods.

Further, it’s not obvious what the president is trying to accomplish with his trade wars. He says trade deficits are a bad thing, though most economists say otherwise. He seems focused on the word “deficit” solely because it’s true in business that deficits are bad. And when you have a personal deficit — say for example, toxic narcissism — that’s also a bad thing.

But in regard to trade, deficits are why stuff is cheap at Walmart. Meanwhile, while the trade wars continue, U.S. farmers, retailers, and consumers are suffering significant collateral damage. The question is: Why?

I know what you’re thinking: “Why don’t you like this president? I thought you said you like simple tools.”

[Rimshot] I’ll be here all month ...

Brad Werntz is a small business owner in Madison.


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