President Donald Trump’s decision to offer America’s farmers a $12 billion bailout makes his disastrous trade policies worse.
Part of the $12 billion in federal money will be used to pay victims of retaliatory foreign tariffs: producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy products and hogs.
“This is a short-term solution,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, which is true and not surprising.
This White House only thinks in the short term.
The long-term solution is to abandon an unnecessary trade war that directly threatens farmers, imposes a tax on consumers and could plunge the world into another recession.
The president seems unaware of this.
On Tuesday in Kansas City, Trump insisted that farmers should simply accept the pain his tariffs have caused. “You gotta stick it out,” Trump said. “The farmers will be the biggest beneficiaries… just be a little patient. “That’s quite easy for the president to say.”
For producers who are watching prices plummet and markets disappear, it’s a much more difficult issue.
“The tariff situation is making things worse for producers as we speak,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a statement.
Perhaps Trump thinks $12 billion will get Roberts and other farm state lawmakers inside the tent.
But it won’t. It’s a mere drop in a very large bucket of problems facing rural areas.
Growers and ranchers want to sell their products, not take handouts and watch their work rot at the grain elevator.
“Trade remains the single best solution to the tough economy in farm country,” Roberts said.
And why would Washington provide a $12 billion bailout if farmers will ultimately benefit from the trade war, as Trump claimed Tuesday?
The answer is obvious: The new money is about politics, not policy.
There’s a growing fear that struggling farmers will vote against Republicans in the fall if the issue isn't resolved.
But the bailout will only make the politics worse.
By temporarily reducing the pain from the trade war, it lessens the pressure on Congress and the White House to actually address the tariff problem.
It may provoke new trade restrictions from foreign trading partners, exacerbating the situation.
Farmers aren’t the only Americans hurt by the tariff battle.
Manufacturers are discussing layoffs and pay reductions.
And all Americans will pay more for some imported goods. Remember, “tariff” is simply another word for “tax.”
Nothing was more predictable than a trade war, once Trump embarked on this course.
We warned voters of the consequences just a few weeks after Trump took office.
The president seems determined to pursue this nightmare.
Writing a $12 billion check won't fix the problem; it will only remind Americans of the foolishness in Washington.
This editorial was originally published in The Kansas City Star.