New Study Confirms That Tariffs Are Bad

It’s been awhile since I renewed my neoliberal shill membership, so let’s do that today. Over at NBER, a quartet of authors examine evidence from the past half century about the effect of raising and lowering tariffs. Why? They claim it’s because no one has done this before. Lots of economists believe tariffs are bad, but no one’s looked at the empirical evidence to verify this in the real world. “Filling this gap is the chief objective of this paper,” they say.

That sounds great. So what did they find?

In other words, increasing tariffs results in lower GDP and lower productivity, higher unemployment, and no change in the trade deficit. This is exactly the opposite of what Donald Trump wants.

Now, my guess is that his tariffs will have a fairly small effect. For one thing, his tariff increases as a percentage of total trade are barely noticeable, and as a percentage of US GDP they’re microscopic. Still, to the extent they have any effect at all, it’s almost certain to be negative by virtually every measure.

POSTSCRIPT: The authors break down the data in various ways, including separate calculations for developing and advanced economies. The charts above show the overall results, but they’re nearly identical to the results for advanced economies on their own. That makes them suitable as estimates for the effect of tariffs on the US.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.