LOOKING back from the vantage point of 2025*, economic historians are starting to write their analyses of the Trump slump. It seemed to appear from nowhere with the economy growing at around the trend rate (2.3% in 2017) and the stockmarket booming. The abrupt change came in March 2018 when President Donald Trump decided to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. "Trade wars are good and easy to win" he said. Both China and the European Union (EU) retaliated in kind without trying to escalate the tensions. It might have ended there.
But unfortunately, the president's more mainstream advisers like Gary Cohn had been sidelined by a more aggressive group that saw the trade deficit as the key measure of economic progress. In this mercantilist view, any American deficit was proof of cheating. Unfortunately, the president had also enthusiastically passed a tax-cutting programme which resulted in demand sucking more imports into the country. The trade deficit widened rather than declined. So in late 2018, just before the mid-term Congressional...Continue reading