"His is a psychopath's trade war," writes Columbia University economist Jeffery Sachs in a scathing op-ed condemning as "insane" President Donald Trump's decision this week to slap steel and aluminum export tariffs on the European Union, Mexico, and Canada.
"The US has probably never before had a delusional President, one who speaks gibberish, insults those around him including his closest associates, and baffles the world. By instinct, we strive to make sense of Trump's nonsense, implicitly assuming some hidden strategy. There is none." —Jeffery Sachs, Columbia University
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in a statement issued late Friday, called the president's move both "haphazard and reckless," decrying the tariffs on top U.S. trading partners and ostensible allies as "an absolute disaster that will cause unnecessary economic pain to farmers, manufacturers and consumers" in his home state of Vermont and nationwide.
"It simply makes no sense to start a trade war with Canada, the European Union and others who are engaged in fair trade, are not cheating and where workers are paid a living wage with good benefits," argued Sanders.
While Moody's and other mainstream analysts are warning that the tariffs will cause clear economic harm in the U.S., the Associated Press reports on individual consumers and small business owners across the country worried about the economic impacts they will now face due to Trump's actions.
In addition to imposing retaliatory tariffs of their own after Trump's announcement of the penalties on Wednesday, both the EU and Canada on Friday filed formal complaints with the World Trade Organization claiming the penalties imposed by the Trump administration are a violation of standing trade agreements. Mexico also responded to the tariffs with new penalties on imports of U.S. goods traveling over the southern U.S. border.
For his part, Sachs characterized Trump's imposition of tariffs as "blatantly illegal," but said there is also something more concerning at play:
Trump's so-called policies are not really policies. Trade wars are on, off, on hold, on again, within the span of days. Summits are on, canceled, or maybe on. Foreign companies are sanctioned today and rescued the next. He says one day he would like to see overseas troops called home soon, and tells them to stay the next. Global agreements and rules are ripped to shreds. Trump's garbled syntax and disorganized thoughts are impossible to follow.
The US has probably never before had a delusional President, one who speaks gibberish, insults those around him including his closest associates, and baffles the world. By instinct, we strive to make sense of Trump's nonsense, implicitly assuming some hidden strategy. There is none.
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"Trump creates chaos for no reason other than his own flagrant inability to follow rules or respect the interests of others," Sachs writes. "The result will be to undermine the long-term role of the dollar; ratchet up the public debt; and undermine the current expansion through a spiral of protectionist measures and rising uncertainties for business."
"Instead of imposing piecemeal tariffs on our trading partners, he should comprehensively and fundamentally re-write all of our failed unfettered trade policies to stop the race to the bottom and lift living standards in the U.S. and throughout the world."
—Sen. Bernie SandersIn an interview with NBC News, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the tariffs are "quite frankly, insulting and unacceptable." And Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU's trade commissioner, declared on Friday that Trump is playing a "dangerous game."
If the goal is to help U.S. workers and bolster the domestic economy, what should Trump being doing instead?
"If Trump were serious about protecting good-paying American jobs he would sign an executive order today to prevent large companies that outsource jobs to low-wage countries from receiving lucrative federal contracts and corporate welfare," recommended Sanders. "Instead of imposing piecemeal tariffs on our trading partners, he should comprehensively and fundamentally re-write all of our failed unfettered trade policies to stop the race to the bottom and lift living standards in the U.S. and throughout the world."
While Sanders said he would support some trade penalties "on countries like China, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam to prevent them from illegally dumping steel and aluminum" onto the global market, the attack on our closest trading partners makes no sense. "American steel and aluminum workers need our help, and they need it now," Sanders acknowledge, "but not at the expense of farmers, workers, small businesses and consumers" throughout the country.
Sachs, however, offered a more direct solution to the current crisis presented by the man who occupies the Oval Office.
"The real answer to Trump's trade (and other) policies is the 25th Amendment," his op-ed argues. "Trump is unwell and unfit to be President. He is a growing threat to the nation and the world."
"The emperor had no clothes," he concludes. "This President has no sense."