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EDITORIAL — Trump tariffs: Senate should stand up to him

More than a few knowledgeable onlookers believe that President Trump’s bluster regarding tariffs on Mexico will subside by Monday, the day on which he threatened to impose them. Maybe.

But the president, in every facet of his administration, is every bit as predictable as a Texas tornado. Where will it turn next? Who knows?

The president threatens to impose the 5 percent tariff — in essence, a tax — on Mexican imports if Mexico cannot or will not slow down the influx of immigrants across their northern border and into the U.S. They can do this, Trump insists, and should.

It’s a high-risk strategy, because tariffs against others usually generate tariffs against the U.S. It is also high risk because Mexico is the No. 1 trade partner for the U.S., and our economies have, in many instances, become interdependent.

Of the 50 states, Texas imports more goods from Mexico than any other — by a lot. The New York Times this week reported in a graphic that Texas imports $107 billion in goods from Mexico. That’s more than the No. 2 importing state, Michigan, and the No. 3 importing state, California, combined.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has rightly cautioned the president that Mexican neighbors are friends, trade partners with a big role in the Texas economy. The purported cure, a tariff, may be worse than the malady.

Economist Ray Perryman of the Perryman Group in Waco said a tariff may result in the loss of 117,000 jobs in our state. “To impose a tariff on all goods from our largest trading partner will cause significant cost increases and other harms to our economy,” Perryman said.

New York Times reporter Ana Swanson writes that as dependent as our economy is upon Mexico, Michigan, which imports $56 billion in goods from Mexico, is more dependent. Auto manufacturers in that state have established supply chains with Mexico to move vehicle components back and forth across the border. That border traffic is troubled enough with the slowdown of business at the border because of the continuing immigration crisis; it could worsen.

We are most interested by the president’s use of the tariff to punish — perhaps more charitably, to “encourage” — Mexico to do better work at the border on slowing down immigrants. But what if Mexico, like the U.S., is simply overwhelmed by what is happening? Does punishment help?

Surely the U.S. government does not perform all of its duties well. Should we expect tariffs from others as upbraids for our own government failures?

Some news reports suggest that Republican senators are pushing back on the president over his bluster. If they stand up against him — it would represent our government’s checks and balances at its best — there might be no greater cause.

 

See also: Tariffs could hurt Texas economies as much as Mexico’s, analysts say