Recently, in another shoot-from-the-hip decision, Trump announced a round of tariffs from goods imported from a whole host of countries, including China. The tariffs are to correct what Trump mistakenly believes are “unsustainable” trade deficits, particularly with China. The United States currently imports a lot of cheaply produced goods from China, more than China imports from the United States. The resulting imbalance, or “trade deficit” is, to Trump, a big problem. But his solution, which will increase the price of these goods for U.S. consumers, might present a bigger one.
Trump announced tariffs against imported steel and aluminum, which is great if you work at a United States steel plant, but less good if you purchase anything made with metals (which you probably do). China announced plans to retaliate by putting tariffs on goods, including imported soy beans and pork, that could hit already struggling U.S. farmers in Trump country pretty hard. In response to China’s planned retaliation, Trump announced plans to put tariffs on even more Chinese goods. (And that, dear reader, is how trade wars get started.)
But there were some notable exceptions to Trump’s tariffs, namely clothing. And who has a fashion line that might suffer if clothing was included in the Trump tariffs? Why, I believe First Daughter and White House Senior Advisor Ivanka Trump!
— scs (@muses220) November 21, 2016
— Catalina Reasoner (@CatReasoner) August 7, 2016
Watchdog groups and voters have pointed out the massive conflict of interest and they’re not happy about it:
Ivanka Trump’s clothing business are exempt from Trump’s China tariffs. And since Ivanka still gets profits from her business, she stands to personally benefit. https://t.co/43DZyFW0og
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) April 10, 2018
A reminder she is as corrupt as the rest of them. https://t.co/TIOs1ilQdg
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) April 7, 2018
Remember when Jimmy Carter sold his peanut farm to avoid bribery from the peanut butter industry?
— Sarah Connor (@SarahConnor2017) April 7, 2018
The White House insists clothing was left out to minimize the “consumer impact” of the tariffs. According to the Washington Post:
“In compiling the list, U.S. officials used algorithms to identify products that benefited from China’s state-directed campaign of technology acquisition while eliminating those whose inclusion would disrupt the U.S. economy. The list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” according to Robert E. Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative. So, clothing and toys were excluded.”
And that could very well be true. The problem is that there’s certainly an appearance of a conflict of interest, and such a large one that Americans can’t be sure White House policymakers aren’t bending the rules to reward Trump’s family. And avoiding even the appearance of corruption is one reason we enacted nepotism laws that bar public officials from hiring family members in the first place (laws the White House is exempt from).
And this appearance of corruption is something the Trump Organization is well aware of, take a gander at an employee handbook from the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas:
“While TIHLV [Trump International Hotel Las Vegas] does not wish to deprive itself of the services of potentially valuable Associates by establishing a policy excluding the employment of relatives, it must be acknowledged, that such employment can result in the appearance of a conflict of interest, collusion, favoritism, and other undesirable work environment conditions.”
Unfortunately, the Trump White House has a far less rigorous standard, allowing both Ivanka and Jared Kushner pretty free rein to do whatever they want (including trying to buy off the head of Planned Parenthood).
Sadly, the struggling soy bean and pig farmers who are going to be hit hardest by the tariffs aren’t lucky enough to have the last name “Trump”:
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) April 9, 2018
In recent comments, Trump said the farmers, some of whom have already been forced to take out loans to keep their farms operating, will just have to deal.
Clothing importers like Ivanka Trump, however, somehow got a tariff carve-out that patriotic American farmers did not https://t.co/8tpb5WY5RD
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) April 9, 2018
“[I]f we do a deal with China, if during the course of a negotiation they want to hit the farmers, because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that’s nice, but I tell you, our farmers are great patriots. These are great patriots. They understand that they’re doing this for the country. And we’ll make it up to them.”
Got that? Patriotic farmers need to suck it up! It’s gonna totally be worth it to “punish” China for a trade deficit caused mostly by Americans’ appetite for cheaply produced Chinese goods. To Trump, this misguided trade war is worthy of sacrifice from everyone (as long as they’re not in his family).