Franklin Delano Trump? It sure seems so after the president on Tuesday tapped a New Deal program for a $12 billion bailout of US farmers slammed by his trade war.
It’s an ominous sign when the US economy is on the verge of delivering the 4 percent growth Trump promised. Are his tariffs going to undo his most important achievement?
The Agriculture Department will use the Commodity Credit Corp., formed to shore up suffering Depression-era farmers by buying up their crops, to offer “one-time” direct subsidies.
This, says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, will let the president work on “long-term trade deals” he vows will make up for losses.
Trump himself pleaded with farmers to “just be a little patient.” But farmers whose entire livelihoods are at stake can be forgiven if they’re not inclined to take the handout and then sit back and wait.
Farm Belt Republicans are furious. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, for one, charged the White House is “cutting the legs out from under farmers” while spending “$12 billion on gold crutches.”
Did Peter Navarro and Trump’s other armchair trade-war generals never realize that China would retaliate for Trump’s tariffs by targeting US vulnerabilities?
Last year, China imported $17 billion in US soybeans — 31 percent of this country’s entire crop. But now it’s started to turn to other sources, like Brazil. And that shift could outlast any trade war.
Also affected are US markets in pork, chicken, corn, sugar and seafood. As The Weekly Standard’s Andrew Egger notes, that raises the very real likelihood of either continued bailouts or thousands of farms going belly-up. Neither of which will Make America Great Again.
Nor is it clear that the bailouts will actually work: The modern farm economy is highly complex, and subsidies of any kind tend to have perverse and unforeseeable effects.
Trump freed the economy to roar with broad and simple policies: tax cuts, a deregulatory drive. An embrace of the arcane and complicated — tariffs, subsidies and other ad-hoc interventions — risks hobbling it right back up again.
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