Thursday, June 23, 2022

Lift the Trump tariffs to fight inflation

I realize that Biden is under a lot of pressure to do something, anything, about inflation/high gas prices, which are things that he has little control over, and he needs a political win with his low poll numbers heading into the mid-term election. But how does a three month suspension of the federal gas tax help him politically?

If Congress takes him up on his offer and passes a bill to suspend the federal gas tax for three months, maybe that would pass in July. So the federal gas tax would end and gasoline would get 18 cents cheaper for consumers until mid-October. Assuming 18 cents is enough to get people to notice, then wouldn't they also notice when the price at the pump jumps back up 18 cents right before they vote in the mid-terms? Honestly, a 4 month gas tax holiday would make more sense politically than 3 months.

You know what is something else that might ease some inflation and would not have any of the political downsides of a temporary gas tax suspension? Biden could lift all of the Trump-era tariffs. Trump famously imposed several rounds of tariffs, often just because he was pissed off at another country. Those tariffs increased the costs of goods from those countries, and that cost was passed on to consumers, which added at least a little to inflation. The benefits to lifting the Trump tariffs are many, such as:
  1. It will be a concrete step Biden can take to look like he is addressing the nation's concern with inflation.
  2. It does not require Congress. Biden can lift the tariffs on his own, so Republicans can't block him.
  3. Just by doing it and making a speech explaining that he is repealing the Trump tariffs will generate stories about how Trump's actions contributed to our current inflation woes.
  4. A lot of those tariff were really stupid and senseless.
  5. Lifting the tariffs would be permanent. Unlike the gas holiday, any anti-inflationary effects from the tariff's ending wouldn't immediately reverse just before the election.
On the other hand, tariffs wouldn't immediately reduce gas prices, which is something that a lot of people care about. So in that sense (and only that sense) it would be worse than the gas tax holiday. But I still think ending the Trump tariffs makes a lot more political sense.