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Weekly eLetter 5/17/2019 – Is the Tariff Discussion Overblown?

Up until a little over a week ago, especially if one were listening to President Trump and the Whitehouse folk, getting a useful agreement with China was a near certainty, right up until the moment when it wasn’t. Seems that the Chinese negotiators were not willing to pledge in writing what they had agreed to verbally, specifically verifications of adherence to the disclosures and commitments being made. Their position was essentially, “You can trust us so we don’t need to put promises in writing.” One could argue, I suppose, that the sticking point is a cultural difference between East and West involving face-saving and all that. While that may have something to do with it, it is more likely that both sides are still moving the chess pieces around the board and both sides believe they are protecting the long-term interests of their respective countries. It may show up a day late and a dollar short…but there will be a deal because both sides need one. Meanwhile, the noise surrounding the whole thing may be a bit overblown.

Brett Arends has a good piece at this week where he looks at some actual tariff impact and comes away less than tarrified. You can read his article at but, here are some highlights:

“Uncle Sam benefits

Yes, tariffs are “costs.” But they do not somehow destroy our money. They do not take our hard-earned dollars and burn them in a big pile. Tariffs are simply federal taxes. That’s it. The extra costs paid by importers, and consumers, goes to Uncle Sam, to distribute as he sees fit, including, for example, on Obamacare subsidies.

It wasn’t long ago the media was complaining because Trump was cutting taxes. Now it’s complaining he’s raising them. Confused? Me too.

And the amounts involved are trivial. Chicken feed.

President Trump just hiked tariffs from 10% to 25% on about $200 billion in Chinese imports. In other words, he just raised taxes by … $30 billion a year.

Oh, no!

The total amount we all paid in taxes last year — federal, state and local — was $5.51 trillion. This tax increase that has everyone’s panties in a twist is a rounding error.”

-read more …