The defense I hear most often from Republicans who aren’t necessarily big Trump fans but believe he’s better than the alternative is this: “It’s Trump or socialism.” Unfortunately, they’re wrong. Trump is already introducing socialism to the US.
It started with his trade war. The President promised to correct our “unfair” trade relationship with China by imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. To this day, he believes those tariffs are paid by China, proving he does not understand how tariffs work, and won’t listen to anyone who does. Tariffs are taxes on imported goods, meaning Americans are paying the Chinese tariffs.
But the Chinese know the tariffs are meant to discourage us from buying their goods, so they, predictably, retaliated. Chinese purchases of American products, especially farm products like pork, beef, and soybeans, have plummeted. Trump’s trade war has been a disaster for American farmers.
So, to make it up to them, Trump has spent $28 billion (so far) bailing them out. That’s more than double Obama’s auto bailout that so angered Republicans. The main difference, besides the cost, is the fact that the auto companies had to pay it back. Taxpayers won’t see Trump’s $28 billion again. It’s gone.
As a side note, another point I often hear in support of the President is the tax cuts (which had little to do with the President; tax reform was always Paul Ryan’s baby.) And yes, Americans have benefitted from tax cuts. I’m a big fan of tax cuts. But guess what? The increased costs Americans are paying due to Trump’s trade war have already wiped out the savings we’ve seen from the tax cuts. More tariffs are scheduled to begin late this year, and he’s already threatened to impose more in the future.
So, what do his trade war and bailout for farmers have to do with socialism? It’s simple: direct state intervention in the economy.
The Mises Institute, an organization which “seeks a free-market capitalist economy,” explains in their article Trump’s Road to Socialism:
“…Trump’s tariffs are not only a new tax for Americans, but a policy of directly picking winners and losers in the economy…Government interventionism doesn’t simply stop there. The natural result of these new government barriers is for businesses to seek ways around them, such as Harley’s decision to move some manufacturing to Europe. This, of course, sparked backlash from President Trump, threatening further retaliation for such a move. As we’ve seen time and time again, the more Trump digs in to his support for protectionism, the more he will seek to interfere with the actions of individual companies.”
As indeed, he seems to think he has the right to do. In a tweet on August 23 of this year, he said, “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China…” American companies are hereby ordered? And for anyone who thinks he was just mindlessly mouthing off again, he doubled down later that day: “For all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. Case closed!” So yes, that’s the President of the United States, claiming he has the power to force American companies out of China, one of our biggest trading partners.
His authoritarian streak is no surprise; we’ve all seen it from the beginning. But Republican complacency in the face of outrageous threats like these is shocking. Crippling free trade, making threats and issuing demands to private companies, using taxpayer money to band-aid the fallout of his own lousy decisions: These are all actions that any self-respecting free-market Republican would have loudly denounced a short time ago.
The Institute goes on: “The result is an economy that increasingly replaces the market with state control. This is precisely why Mises wrote extensively about how escalating economic interventionism led to socialism.”
Economist Ludwig von Mises wrote of state interference in markets: “…one must go farther and farther until the market economy has been entirely destroyed and socialism has been substituted for it.”
In his announcements about the farm bailouts, Trump even keeps referring to American farmers as “our Great Patriot Farmers.” Those tweets could have been written by Chairman Mao.
President Trump has different motives and goals than the Democrats and Democratic Socialists running against him. But socialism isn’t defined by motives.
Conservatives have always believed in free markets and limited government. Republicans used to believe in them. But now, being a Republican means supporting everything this President does, even when his actions are antithetical to everything you ever believed about the economy.
I am fundamentally opposed to socialism, and that is one of the many reasons I’m not a Republican anymore.