Trump’s Tariffs Are a Huge Middle-Class Tax Increase

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Robert VerBruggen reacts to CBO’s calculation that Donald Trump’s tariffs will reduce average earnings by 0.4 percent:

The median household income is roughly $60,000, so crude back-of-the-envelope math puts the typical cost somewhere around $240 per year. This is consistent with a lot of other work: The trade war isn’t exactly devastating to the average American family’s budget, but the costs add up over time.

Not quite: you have to add in the effect of higher prices for consumers thanks to retaliatory tariffs. CBO doesn’t estimate this for some reason, but it probably roughly doubles the impact on households. At a guess, CBO is estimating that tariffs will cost the average American household about $500 per year.

For comparison, the median American household pays about $2,000 in federal income taxes. Trump’s tariffs may be invisible to most people, but they’re still the equivalent of a 25 percent income tax increase. I’m pretty sure no conservative would ever describe this as “isn’t exactly devastating.”

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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