All things considered, I think the biggest problem with Donald Trump's trade agenda is that he has no idea how little he understands about trade.
The president recently boasted, for example, in reference to trade policy, "I understand that issue better than anybody." He added soon after, "I know every ingredient. I know every stat. I know it better than anybody knows it."
And if that were true, it'd be quite reassuring, but it's not. In fact, what the Republican sees as one of his signature issues is actually one of the areas in which he's most confused.
Trump claimed yesterday afternoon that the United States would begin imposing an additional 10 percent tariff on $300 billion in Chinese imports starting next month. (I use the word "claimed," because it's often difficult to know whether the administration will actually do what the president says it will do.) Beijing, naturally, is threatening retaliatory measures.
But as part of the same announcement, Trump tweeted that the series of concessions he thought he'd received from China -- developments the White House has bragged about for months -- never actually materialized. It was intended as a criticism of Beijing, but it didn't do the president's credibility any favors.
Soon after, he presented reporters with familiar falsehoods regarding China and trade.
"They're paying for these tariffs; we're not. [...]
"It's been proven that our people are not paying for those tariffs."
Even Trump should be able to understand that the opposite has been proven. Here's a study someone can go over with the president on the effects of his agenda. Here's another. And another. All of the evidence is consistent with common sense: Americans end up paying more as a result of Trump's tariffs. They are, for all intents and purposes, a Trump tax hike on consumers in his own country.
Even Larry Kudlow, the top voice on economic policy in Trump's White House, recently acknowledged during a nationally televised interview that the president's claims about tariffs are wrong.
But that's just the start of the problem. Trump added yesterday, referring to Chinese officials, "If they don't want to trade with us anymore, that would be fine with me. We'd save a lot of money."