During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump ran on “getting a fair deal for the American people and the American worker.” The President has unfortunately failed American workers by imposing and threatening more tariffs not only on China but also our closest allies. President Trump is also attempting to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Mexico ratified the pact in June; however, congressional Democrats are refusing to bring the trade agreement to a vote.
With the next presidential election just on the horizon, Trump’s trade policies are a topic of debate. There is widespread agreement among the Democratic candidates that the trade war is having a negative impact. Here is what they have said on the campaign trail:
“When it comes to President Trump’s tariff war with China, one thing is clear: America’s farmers and manufacturers are getting crushed – no one knows that better than Iowa. To Trump, the people getting hurt are just pawns in his game.”
“Trump’s plan to slap massive tariffs on Mexico is precisely what I warned the American people about on MSNBC. It will mean Americans foot the bill. This is the Trump Trade Tax.”
“By the way, a tariff is a tax. So if you ever believe the Republicans don't raise taxes, that's what they're doing right now.”
“The damage from Donald Trump's disastrous tariffs and his reckless trade wars has already been done. We need a president who’s going to make sure we fight for farmers and workers, invest in rural communities, and strengthen our ties with the rest of the world.”
“In Iowa, Garry told me that his farm took a major hit from Trump's trade policies, then handed me a check that totaled the amount of aid he's received. It was $25. I'm running for president because people like Garry, who give their all & believe in our country, deserve better.”
“The tariffs on imports from Mexico will hit American consumers, cost tens of thousands of American jobs and are a bizarre way to stem the flow of migrants - if their economy takes a hit more people will want to move for new opportunities. It’s a big move in the wrong direction.”
“Trump’s volatile & ill-conceived trade wars are causing farmers to declare bankruptcy in record numbers. The median income for U.S. farm households was -$1,548 in 2018. This is crazy. We need leadership in the WH that provides the stability & support small farmers need to thrive.”
“Trump’s erratic trade feud is grade-A stupid. It will do nothing to fix the humanitarian crisis created by his immigration agenda, and will hurt American workers in the process.”
“We can’t talk about food without first looking at our agriculture system. Our farmers are hurting. Retaliatory tariffs from China and extreme weather have lowered prices and destroyed crops leaving many farmers unsure of what the future holds.”
“Trump’s ‘trade war’ isn’t just political jargon. It’s real, reckless policy and if you have a 401k or a college fund, it’s affecting you. This is ridiculous. It's got to end.”
“As with so many issues, President Trump doesn't have a real plan when it comes to trade, tariffs, or the economy. He's hurting farmers and manufacturers. Americans need a strategy—not a tantrum. #GillibrandTownHall”
“There are no winners in trade wars. We need stronger protections on our intellectual property and fairer trade agreements, but tariffs and brinkmanship ultimately hurt the American consumer.”
“It is clear that Donald Trump has little to no understanding of how the economy works or what the true risk from China really is. His trade war is hurting rural America and causing a rise in bankruptcies for farmers. We cannot continue down this path.”
“Donald Trump is the most fiscally irresponsible president in decades. Now his tariffs on China are imposing taxes on American farmers, workers, and consumers. And I can assure you China has a longer attention span than Donald Trump does.”
“We need a new trade policy that creates decent-paying jobs in America and ends the race to the bottom. Corporate America cannot continue to throw American workers out on the street while they outsource our jobs and enjoy record-breaking profits. Despite the president’s tough rhetoric and haphazard tariffs, under Trump, we now have a record-breaking $890 billion annual trade deficit in goods. And since Trump was elected, multinational corporations have shipped 185,000 American jobs overseas. That is unacceptable.”
“From endless wars that strain military families to trade policies that crush our middle class, Washington’s foreign policy today serves the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of everyone else. For too long, our economic policies have left workers with the short end of the stick. We need to strengthen labor standards – and then fight to enforce them. That’s why Elizabeth will oppose Trump’s new ‘NAFTA 2.0’ unless he produces a better deal for America’s working families. It’s time to stop prioritizing corporate profits over American paychecks.”
Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Michael Bennet were correct in saying that “tariffs are taxes,” while their fellow candidates raise attention to the fiscal pain they are causing. But let’s not forget that the Democratic Party isn’t exactly a bastion for the free market. Many Democrats currently support not only the repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 but also the implementation of even more punitive tax measures. They should bear in mind that these new taxes would also take a toll on jobs and consumers in addition to taxpayers’ wallets. As the Democrats rightfully point out the errors in the President’s protectionist trade policies, it is also vital that they empower the American individual to use compete within the free market by not supporting large government programs funded by their earnings.
It is imperative that the candidates for the upcoming presidential election maintain the role of free trade within our vision of freedom in the economy. The majority of economists and the American public agree that the continuation of free trade policy is a boon for the economy.