Tariff on Mexico will turn back the clock

A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. Construction is underway to extend a secondary fence over the top of this hill and eventually to the Pacific Ocean.
Originally published in the Batesville Daily Guard

Well, it looks like there’s a plan to build “the wall.”

By “the wall” I mean the one proposed by President Trump to run the length of the border with Mexico.

Trump promised to make Mexico pay for it. Mexico, of course, responded by saying “as if!”

That threw a ratchet into the gears of the plan, though I’m not sure who expected the Mexican government to say “OK, we’ll do it!”

Up until a week ago, a lot of people believed the whole deal with the wall was going to be dropped. After all, it would be very expensive, $15-$25 billion and up to $16 million for each mile, and Mexico wasn’t going to pay for it. Most American also don’t favor it, with both Pew and Gallup finding that support from Americans as a whole was below 40 percent.

So, realistically, the wall could’ve been dropped with little repercussion to Trump. It might have actually been a chance for him to gain some ground in public opinion, which has so far shown him to be rather unpopular.

But he persisted and now he’s come forward with a plan. A plan to tax all imports from Mexico by 20 percent. Despite his claims though, Mexico still won’t be paying for the wall.

Instead, American importers will. That, in turn, means American consumers, also known as you and me.

Now, I hear some people saying “Well, we can just stop buying stuff from Mexico.”

And I’ll say, “No, you can’t.”

Mexico is our third-largest trading partner. While you many not see as many “Made in Mexico” labels as you do “Made in China” we do import billions and billions of dollars worth of goods from Mexico that we can’t avoid.

In 2015, the U.S. imported $74 billion in vehicles, $63 billion in electrical machinery, $49 billion in machinery, $21 billion in agricultural products, $14 billion in mineral fuels (especially oil) and $12 billion in optical and medical instruments. That’s only the biggest, there is lots, lots more. You know, what you’d expect from a neighbor who happens to be your third-biggest trading partner. 

So, enjoy your avocados while you can before they double in price.

Realistically, those jobs won’t “come back” (many of them weren’t here in the first place) to the U.S. Instead, they’ll just move to other countries where even a 20-35 percent tariff won’t make the imports more expensive than American goods. Americans will just keep paying more.

Plus, it would actually cost many Americans their jobs. If stores like Walmart and Costco have to pay more on imports, then they will make up the cost by cutting jobs or lowering salaries. The consumers will just wind up paying more, meaning that other parts of the economy will be hurt.

Also, trying to make Mexico fund the wall will likely result in more people trying to cross the border illegally. From 2007 to 2014, the number of undocumented people, not all of them Mexican of course, has fallen by more than a million people. Mexicans are leaving the U.S. for Mexico.

Why? Because wrecking a country’s economy can do that. 

What our president and many of his supporters don’t seem to realize is that immigration of Mexican people has actually reversed over the last few years. 

trump_flicker_face_yessWhy would they go back to Mexico, a place the president has painted as slightly more Mad Max than he has the U.S.?

Well, two reasons: The Great Recession of 2008 and the growth of the economy in Mexico. Thanks to Mexico’s growth, many Mexicans are living at a similar standing as their American counterparts across the border. 

This isn’t to say we don’t have an issue with illegal border crossings. Thousands of people make their way through Mexico from Central America (particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) every year. Some are seeking opportunity but many are fleeing crime and violence. It’s been an issue we’ve been working with Mexico on in regards to the issue because it means that they have an undocumented immigrant problem there too. This adds up to “Mexico stops working with us, both American and Mexican law enforcement lose cross-border assets and crime goes up.”

If we continue down this road, what will be the result? We’re not only going to have to pay for a wall, but we’re going to also have to expand our border patrol too because if Mexico stops working with us, we will have to pick up the slack. 

At the end of the day, though, and like the now much-circulated meme says “Problem: A $25 billion wall. Solution: $36 ladder.”

So, is it really worth it?

Note: On Thursday Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the 20 percent tariff was just an “option.” — JP


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