Top Senate Republicans have finally had enough of the Trump Administration's economic interventionism in the form of tariffs that effectively raise the price of imported goods for the American consumers and businesses that buy them.
The final straw? Retaliatory tariffs from China on American farmers in response to Trump's tariffs on imported steel. Even before China hit back with tariffs of its own on American food exports, these steel tariffs have had a devastating impact on American businesses, driving up the costs of raw steel by 25 percent, raising the overhead costs of every business that uses steel in its products.
As a result of these runaway cost increases, some businesses have canceled plans to expand operations, laid off workers, and threatened to move operations overseas. America's largest maker of steel nails, might even go out of business altogether.
But it's not only American businesses that buy steel who have been harmed by the steel tariffs. Foreign sellers of steel, such as those in China, have lost a lot of American customers, and as a result the Chinese government has struck back with tariffs of its own on imports of food goods sold by American farmers, who are now collateral damage– along with every American business that buys steel– in Donald Trump's trade war diplomacy.
The administration's solution? A $12 billion federal bailout, a three part trade aid program for farmers hit hard by foreign tariffs, to be rolled out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a combination of payments, purchases, and trade promotion efforts. But farmers, while relieved they won't be going out of business, aren't happy to be depending on the federal government for their livelihood. They'd just like Washington and Beijing to stop getting between them and their customers.
As the Tennessean reports:
"For some Tennessee farmers, the $12 billion in aid announced Tuesday by the Trump administration brings some financial relief — but not in the way they would prefer to make ends meet. 'It will be some relief, but it’s a mixed bag,' said Parks Wells, executive director of the Tennessee Soybean Promotion Council in Dyer County. 'We hate to lose the free markets. Farmers thrive on that, not government support. We've lost this market because of the policy situation.'"
Senate Republicans whose constituents are finding their livelihoods endangered by White House trade policy diplomacy have become exasperated with Donald Trump as well. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said, "You put people in the poorhouse and provide them aid. What you need to do is not put them in the poorhouse. They put in place a policy that requires farmers to go on welfare," adding, "It's hard to believe there's not an outright revolt in Congress."
Corker has co-sponsored a bill earlier this year with Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to reign in Donald Trump's trade war by requiring congressional approval for tariffs imposed under the pretense of national security– such as those on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.
Of the recent trade aid farmer's bailout, Flake said, "This is what we feared all along, that these markets would be replaced by handouts. You lose some of these markets, you lose them for good or a long time," echoing the sentiments of House Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), who said, "Some in the ag community, they say, 'That’s great, thank you for the help.' Except that the problem then becomes we’ve lost the market, so how do we get the market back? That’s the question."
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) went so far as to say, "This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits. I’m very exasperated. This is serious."
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said, "Taxpayers are going to be asked to initial checks to farmers in lieu of having a trade policy that actually opens and expands more markets. There isn’t anything about this that anybody should like."