What do you do when you're in the market for a new car, or toy, but seemingly out of nowhere the prices have gone up?
See, I'm in the market for an SUV to take off-roading and go camping. Based on my research, I decided the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, and Chevrolet Colorado are the best in my price range of around $40,000 for what I need.
I really like the 4Runner, but my only problem is it's not manufactured in America, so the Colorado and Wrangler, which are built in Missouri and Ohio, respectively, are my top choices. But one sticking point with the Wrangler is that my recently deceased dog and I drove one cross-country many times. I was also planning on taking my time negotiating with dealerships by having time on my side to get the best deal possible.
Once again in my life, I made a plan and God laughed. When it comes to my spiritual beliefs, I generally try to make equal sense of good fortune and tragedy. However, God in this instance is President Donald Trump, and the thing is, I can't make sense of many of his policies.
Above all, I can't make sense how a Republican president can be blind to a core conservative tenant: free market economics. Including a fundamental belief from the champion of conservatism, President Reagan's passion for free trade and vehement opposition to tariffs, which is a tax.
Instead of negotiating to fix the trade imbalance, this president has created a global trade war. Our trade imbalance with communist China has grown between 2016 and 2018. This year's trade balance might shrink, but only because exports have also shrunk. The imbalance has increased with the rest of the world as well.
President Trump wants to now escalate our global trade war with Mexico. The reason is not what you'd naturally think of, which is related to trade, which has also grown.
No, President Trump has proposed to levy a 5 percent tax on all trade with Mexico starting on June 10, increasing by 5 percent each month until it hits 25 percent. The reason being: to force Mexico to halt illegal immigrants trying to enter the United States.
There are two issues at work here. One, we need to remedy the increasing trade imbalance with Mexico. Two, we need to curb illegal immigration, or process immigrants better. This is not to be confused with legal immigration and immigration on humanitarian grounds. But a tariff on Mexico, just as the tax on Chinese goods is not being paid by those countries. No, it's being paid by you and me.
Let me put this in perspective, and I hope my Trump-supporting friends — yes, I still have many — read this part. After June 10, if the 25 percent tariff is implemented and the Chevy or the Jeep I was going to by increases by a few thousand dollars, I won't be purchasing a new car. Neither will thousands of Americans because we can't afford a 5 percent, let alone 25 percent increase in a new car, car part, fridge, or toy.
If you don't believe me, consider what Target CEO Brian Cornell told analysts last week: "We're concerned about tariffs because they lead to higher prices on everyday products for American families."
How does that impact us in Charleston? When people stop buying cars, people in Ohio lose jobs. When people can't buy a fridge or TV, people at Target will lose their jobs. Everyday, over $150 million in goods float through South Carolina ports. When they stop, so will the jobs.
Tariffs are taxes that consumers pay in addition to sales taxes we already pay. Every conservative I've spoken to believes capitalism is better than socialism. It comes down to a fundamental question of taxation and economic policy.
This president has been partially responsible for the greatest economic expansion in my lifetime. But these trade wars are bad for America. If you don't believe me, then why, for example, does the fridge that cost $800 last year cost a good bit more this year? The same will happen to cars and everything else.
Rouzy Vafaie is a former Charleston Republican leader who lives in Mt. Pleasant.