A tractor plows a field on February 25, 2014 in Firebaugh, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty

With many hurt by tariffs, how many bailouts will Trump offer?

Updated

Donald Trump is clearly aware of the fact that many American farmers are feeling the pinch as a result of his trade agenda, but as far as the president is concerned, they don’t really mind. “Our farmers are true patriots,” he said at a rally last night, adding, “You know what our farmers are saying? ‘It’s O.K., we can take it.’”

This has been the president’s line for a while. Many farmers are taking a hard hit in the wake of Trump’s tariffs, but he keeps assuring everyone that they don’t really mind.

Except, the president may not fully believe that. If he did, the Trump administration wouldn’t have put together a $12 billion bailout package for farmers, announced last week by the Department of Agriculture.

And while few will argue that farmers are undeserving of public support, especially when they’re facing punishments outside of their control, the tricky part comes when others start looking for bailouts of their own. The Washington Post  reported yesterday:

Trump has repeatedly said he would protect American farmers in the trade war, last week setting aside $12 billion to help them, but he is facing pressure to extend aid to other industries if the tariffs remain in place or get extended to more products.

Extending those bailouts would be an expensive proposition. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday estimated the total price tag could hit $39 billion if Trump compensated the losses across all industries. It would take $7.6 billion to help car and automobile parts manufacturers alone, the Chamber said, calling it a “slippery slope” for Trump to determine who gets help and who doesn’t.

I tend not to agree much with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but on this, the business lobby is raising a legitimate point. Despite Republican orthodoxy in opposition to government choosing “winners” and “losers” in the private sector, Trump is doing exactly that as his tit-for-tat trade war escalates.

How will the White House justify federal aid for some industries and not others?

The Post spoke to the head of an Indiana company that makes lawn-care equipment, which has already laid of 75 employees as a result of Trump’s steel tariffs, which has taken a toll on her bottom line. The article added that the company, which has been in business since 1839, has “survived recessions and the Civil War, but it might not survive a prolonged trade war.”

Maybe it should get a bailout? And what about nail makers, cheesemakers, and whiskey distilleries that are also feeling adverse effects of the administration’s agenda?