You can always take them off.
Those were the fabled words I heard from someone in the administration a year ago when I figured that there would have to be a way that we could avoid a full bore trading war. That was when I really believed that the goal was to get a good deal out of the Chinese for more trading and not to raise as much money as possible from the Chinese because I truly didn't believe that anyone in the administration actually thought the Chinese were going to pay for them.
I want you, for a second, to go back to before this whole trade war began.
It started, if you recall, as what Jamie Dimon called a tiff, meaning, to me, that things would never get out of hand and there would be some truce that would allow everyone to win. Not in the calculus: that anyone in the administration, least of all the president, truly believed that a tariff had consequences for anyone save the farmers.
It was inconceivable.
It's a major reason why there could be so many misreads of the situation, because it was just too phantasmagorical. Who would think that any policy maker, let alone the president, genuinely believed that there would be no cost AND ALL GAIN to our nation?
That's the issue with the Mexican tariffs. If you truly believe there is no cost no matter what, then why not slap on as many tariffs as you can until we stop importing things from Mexico and they are all made here?
Again, a phantasmagorical statement that is gospel in the White House.
Which brings me to where we are right now. If the president thinks that you put tariffs on Mexican imports and those tariffs go toward building a wall, then in his mind that's the biggest win-win imaginable.
Oh, and like they told me a year ago when I expressed concern that perhaps there would be some consequences given that the tariffs are actually paid for by the acquirer, "You can always take them off."
So, while it is seemingly inconceivable that Monday morning brings a brand-new, totally unthought-out set of tariffs, remember, in their minds:
1. They will make the Mexicans pay for the wall just like president Trump promised during the last campaign,
2. There are no costs whatsoever to the American people, and
3. If you disagree, remember, they can always be taken off!