We knew President Donald Trump was pretty much the antithesis of a politician when he first ran for office — he was quite proud of it, actually.
But his proposed tariffs/taxes on imported Mexican goods, designed to force the country’s hand on immigration policy, may be the most anti-politician policy ever imagined: Trump is risking his single-biggest asset (the economy) during a re-election campaign for something (immigration reform) he hopes will be a long-standing legacy.
Typically, politicians do the opposite: they sacrifice the future for short-term, instant gratification ahead of an election.
Raising taxes ahead of an election is also typically a terrible idea — just ask George H.W. Bush‘s advisers what that will do to your campaign.
Just don’t ask those close to Trump. Because, despite advisers’ near-universal opposition to the Mexican tariffs, it appears the president will forge ahead with the plan anyway, beginning Monday.
He’s playing a crazy game of poker.
It’s unclear how long the 5 percent tax on everything imported from Mexico (and it’s a lot) would take to shake the American economy. Consumers may not notice it at first, any more than they noticed the small savings in each paycheck from last year’s tax changes. But to a business, a 5 percent (and escalating) increase in the cost of certain goods is a big deal.
Trump has been outspoken about his goals for this high-stakes poker game, suggesting the U.S. will enjoy great long-term social and economic benefits if Mexico can slow the flow of undocumented immigrants.
It’s worth pointing out his “toughen up, Mexico” mantra wouldn’t seem to address the huge number of immigrants fleeing dangerous countries and seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, nor would it address the thousands of immigrants here illegally who entered through other ports of entry.
But to Trump, who hasn’t been able to make much progress on his promised wall, having something to show at the Mexican border ahead of 2020 is a big enough necessity that he’ll fold a possible winning hand in favor of new cards that not even his biggest supporters are confident will pay off.