By Matthew Rosen
My first article at the beginning of this school year had the same title as this one. In that article, I described President Trump’s first bad week in the White House, as I described how he fumbled the ball on the budget and DACA. Unfortunately this week, the things he has said and done has made the budget/DACA debacle look like a great week, as he royally messed up drugs, guns, and trade in ways I never thought possible. Fortunately, two of those three (drugs and guns) won’t be a big deal in the long term, and are basically already fixed. I have been an avid Trump Supporter from the beginning, and can defend him on most things, but it is crucial that we call out the President when he does something wrong.
The least awful of the mistakes happened as President Trump attempted to deliver a message on the opioid crisis and drug problems in America. He suggested that the new strategy to fixing drug related deaths was to be more strict on drug dealers, including the approval of the Philippines’ use of the death penalty on drug dealers. This is an absolutely crazy suggestion, even without the death penalty part. The War on Drugs is not only immoral, but has and always will be a complete failure.
First of all the War on Drugs is immoral because nobody, especially the government, has the right to tell an individual what they can and can’t put into their body (if and when it doesn’t affect anybody else). As long as putting a drug inside of your body doesn’t impact anybody else’s life, liberty, or opportunity, than I believe it is immoral to have a government intervene. I do not personally advocate for drugs, nor want to take any drugs myself, but for people who do, they should have the freedom to do so. Even passed the immoral argument, the War on Drugs has always been unsuccessful. The only time the US has ever repealed a constitutional amendment was a repeal on the prohibition of alcohol, which just shows that the government cannot stop the use of illicit substances. Lastly, the federal government cannot and should not crack down on drug crime because that power is not given to them in any part of the Constitution. Therefore if there was any crack down at all (which there shouldn’t be), it legally must come from the state and local governments, thanks to the Tenth Amendment.
Once we have this assumption that President Trump cannot and should not crack down on drugs (as it is immoral, illegal, and impossible), we must look at his comments in a pragmatic way. First of all, on his wish for us to be harsher on punishment: is it really pragmatic to overcrowd our prisons with people who are just selling a product to another consenting adult? Second, his comment on the death penalty is way too over the top. For some young adult selling a small amount of marijuana to another consenting adult, they now should be killed by the government? Woah President Trump, I’m a little scared of this policy. He even tried to compare a drug dealer, indirectly killing many people who overdosed, to a murderer who shot one person. He states that the drug dealer killed more people, yet gets a lesser punishment. The only problem with that argument is that the murderer had intent, while the drug dealer only sold a product to another adult who misused the product. The blame is on the overdoser.
The second mistake by President Trump is with guns, which happened when he met with Democrats and dovish Republican Congressmen on a new gun control bill. President Trump suggested raising the age to buy an assault weapon to 21, he suggested taking the guns of certain people before going through due process, and he even made Senator Feinstein jump with joy over his acknowledgement and help in getting her assault weapon ban into the new bill. Wow. What happened to pro-Second Amendment Trump? Even though this is the dumbest, scariest thing he could say, I still believe pro-Second Amendment Trump is running the show. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Ben Shapiro (on his podcast) agreed with my initial assessment of his comments: he is talking to be liked. When in a room full of people who would be happy with him if he said these things, he will say it 100% of the time. Not that this move is a brilliant forethought for him, but his instinct is to be liked. This theory is also supported by his walk back on a lot of this after seeing the criticism from his base, and his talk with the NRA. One other good news is that these proposals will never pass Congress. And the final good news is that his scariest comment as President (“I like taking the guns early… Take the guns first, go through due process second.”) was at least partially taken out of context, and would never ever happen. That comment is the most ridiculously illegal thing I have ever heard by a President. The part that was taken out of context was that President Trump was referring to a bill proposed by Senator Marco Rubio, and supported by Vice President Pence, where there is a temporary gun restraining order. So technically there would be due process as evidence is given to a court, and then later revisited to allow the person to defend themselves in court. President Trump I guess took that as due process second, even though it’s not. Even still, I never ever want to hear a President say anything like that ever again.
And finally, President Trump’s big mistake that will affect us all is his new trade war with multiple countries. Trade wars are ECON 101, a stupid idea, economically unsound, and hurt one’s own country. President Trump just introduced a policy of reciprocal tariffs, most notably a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum. Mr. President, this will lead to less competition, crony capitalism, increased prices, and unfair trading. This policy of placing a tariff on any country that we have a trade deficit with makes no sense because trade surplus/deficit has been proven to show no correlation with a country’s economic success.
The first negative effect of tariffs are that prices will increase, which will make consumers in your own country have to pay more for goods, such as steel or aluminum. It is the same concept as when you tax a business, their supply curve (willingness to supply) decreases, leading to higher prices and lower quantity supplied. In principle we would call this a protective policy, as in protecting domestic producers but hurting foreign producers’ chances to compete. In reality, it hurts everybody as the price of steel and aluminum will increase, making it more expensive for consumers and producers alike. This leads us to another negative effect of tariffs: crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is making policy that will favor some businesses by hurting others. In this case, pure steel and aluminum businesses have less competition from abroad, which will help them sell at high prices and make more profit. This policy’s help to pure steel and aluminum comes at the expense of almost any business that uses steel or aluminum as an input, such as cars or beer. Car manufacturers have to purchase steel and beer manufacturers have to purchase aluminum for their cans. Since these pure metals are now more expensive, it acts as an indirect tax on all businesses in the US that use steel or aluminum. Here is where we see their supply and willingness to supply decrease, leading to higher prices, and a lower quantity supplied.
We as a nation should treat global trade the same as President Trump has treated the domestic exchange. All exchange should be bilateral, and includes one party with money, and the other with a good. All exchange should be a direct trade where one party is willing to spend a certain amount of money on the good, and then they swap. It seems really simple because it is, it is ECON 101. The less barriers you place, the cheaper products are, the more innovation there is, and the fairer trade is. Not to bring up Ben Shapiro again, but he said it perfectly in the same podcast as earlier: When trade is like this, no one ever has an effective trade deficit. When you go to the bookstore and buy a book for $10, you don’t end up with a $10 trade deficit with the bookstore. Instead, you end up with a book that is worth that money to you. And on an international stage, there is even more benefits than that. This is because most dollars we pay to countries like China for cheap steel ends up back in the US economy through investment. Therefore there is no sound economic reason for placing tariffs ever. Trade wars are never won, and never will be won.
Just like when President Trump walked back his comments on guns when he felt the heat from his base, we need to keep criticizing his bad decisions in order to make him rethink them. Luckily for us, his comments on drug dealers and guns are either meaningless, taken out of context, or will never lead to effective change; however, his policy on tariffs will hurt all of us. I urge everyone, especially Trump supporters, to criticize loudly whenever he does something that is bad for the country. It’s been great that he has been helping the country, and had a great first year, so we have had plenty of days to clap for him, but the condemnation of bad policy needs to be just as powerful.