As anyone with a passing knowledge of American history could tell you, every major tariff we have ever implemented has caused an economic crisis. As anyone with a passing knowledge of Donald Trump could tell you, he has no knowledge of American history whatsoever, hence his surprise announcement of aluminum and steel tariffs.
Paul Ryan is a classic free-trade conservative, and he’s publicly hostile to Trump’s “blow up the economy for no reason” proposal. Sure, it was also a break with conservative orthodoxy when Trump betrayed America to Russia, but treason didn’t cost the GOP’s shareholders any money, plus it got them the White House, so they didn’t really care. On the other hand, a trade war would murder their bottom line, and the Republicans are not about to let Trump touch their money.
After acquiescing to Trump’s every imaginable debasement of our government (and cooking up a few of his own), Paul Ryan is prepared to take on his boss and pass legislation that will strip the president of his authority to implement tariffs. The Congressman from Wisconsin can laugh off Russia’s scheming for fourteen months straight, but trade policy is a bridge too far.
Ryan is trying to talk the West Wing down from implementing the tariffs, to avoid a public confrontation with the Dear Leader. The GOP is rightly concerned that voters will be furious if a trade war raises consumer prices, which could cause even worse midterm losses. Trump believes he knows his voters better than they do, though, and he’s unlikely to listen. However, if Trump won’t play ball, Paul Ryan is not going to let him unilaterally unravel seventy years of trade policy because he’s mad about the Robert Mueller investigation, or cooking up insider trading with Carl Icahn, or possibly just bored.
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