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Tariff Waivers: Another Source of Welfare for Donald Trump, His Family and Their Friends

Donald Trump may not be very good at running the government for the benefit of the people who live in the country (or the world), but he sure knows how to use it to enrich himself and his friends. The NYT apparently forgot to mention this fact in a piece on companies applying for exemptions to tariffs.

When countries impose tariffs or other import restrictions they usually allow for some exemptions in special cases. One of the reasons that economists generally are opposed to tariffs is that these exemptions create enormous opportunities for corruption.

Imagine that someone importing $50 million in steel faced a 25 percent tariff. She would save $12.5 million if she could get an exemption. Many businesspeople would be happy to share a portion, perhaps a very substantial proportion, of this $12.5 million in savings with the politician(s) who made it possible. This could mean campaign contributions, sweetheart contracts with their businesses, or even outright cash payments.

It is very plausible that the Trump family and/or others in his administration, who have shown an open contempt for ethics norms, plan to profit personally from granting these tariff exemptions. It would have been worth mentioning this possibility in this piece.

This article originally appeared on Beat the Press.

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Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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