The planned replacement of the Milwaukee Street bridge in downtown Janesville, Wis., offers new proof of the damage being done by the Trump administration’s tariffs. Project bids came in $1.3 million higher than expected because recent steel and aluminum tariffs have increased material costs. The city of Janesville has no choice but to pay the cost overruns — unless it wants to gamble and rebid the project, which city officials say could lead to an even higher price tag.
The Trump trade war is no longer theoretical. It is here, and the consequences have hit Main Street, literally, at the intersection of Main Street and Milwaukee Street.
Initial optimism that China and the U.S. would quickly settle their dispute has all but disappeared. Both sides remain in retaliation mode. One of the most troubling aspects of this trade war is the lack of objectives. It’s not clear what China must do for the administration to dial back tariffs. That the trade war may be an end unto itself is a chilling prospect.
Maybe nobody stands to lose more than area farmers, many of whom voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but have become victims of retaliatory tariffs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this summer that it would help this important constituency with a new aid program. But as the Associated Press highlighted in a Monday story, the aid payments won’t amount to much.
Tariffs are likely to cost corn farmers nearly 44 cents per bushel, while the program is expected to pay them just 1 cent per bushel. For 200,000 bushels, that’s about $2,000.
But losing money in the short term is not what’s keeping farmer groups awake at night. They’re more concerned about losing access to China’s market of 1.4 billion people. That’s a lot of hungry mouths, but China has options, and it’s turning to South America to fill any void in U.S. agriculture imports.
Consumers haven’t yet felt the farmers’ pain, but they may soon. New tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods will touch every part of the economy, raising prices on everything from bicycles to smartphones.
Republicans are rightly nervous about tariffs heading into the midterm elections. They may be hoping consumers will accept price increases to win concessions from China, but that’s assuming the Trump administration has an achievable policy goal in mind.
If you’re a taxpayer, farmer, consumer — or perhaps all three — the Trump administration is asking you to sacrifice your hard-earned money in return for a better outcome in the future. But when there’s no better outcome in sight, that’s when forking out an extra $1.3 million for a new bridge or losing 44 cents per bushel of corn starts to feel worse than unpleasant. That’s when tariffs start to become intolerable.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE JANESVILLE (WIS.) GAZETTE