Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Did you miss me? I was away all last week, visiting the great state of Texas. I am that unusual career Air Force officer who had never been to San Antonio prior to last week. The people were very nice, the events all went well, and the weather was hot and…what’s that word they use down there...?humid– yes, that it, it was very, very, very humid. But nice folks. Anyway, it’s nice to be home in Colorado. Although, I must confess that I’m doing the dirty laundry from our sweaty trip while a light snow falls outside my May window, oh well.

There are lots of ways in which our Colorado is a remarkable state. I’m actually quite pleased that we have a vibrant political scene with both Democrats and Republicans engaged in lots and lots of ongoing political squabbles. A state, and a nation for that matter, is better off when there is an honest and energetic competition for political power. But when you say “Colorado” to folks back in the other “lesser” states, they will often talk about the extraordinary outdoor opportunities we Coloradans enjoy. But if you spend much time outside, enjoying Colorado’s gorgeous outdoor recreation activities, I have bad news – President Trump is about to make your time outside cost more. Is this higher cost justified and correct? It’s hard to tell, because our president doesn’t seem to understand how tariffs actually work.

You’ve likely seen the news stories that talk about Trump’s astonishing lack of understanding of basic economics, though perhaps the American who appears to have lost more money than any other back a few years ago has already demonstrated his lack of trade skills and grasp of both macro- and microeconomic policies. His tweets have been quite helpful in demonstrating his true lack of understanding, and that should worry all Americans, and we Coloradans in particular.

It was earlier this month when our illustrious president tweeted out, “Tariffs are NOW being paid to the United States by China of 25% on 250 Billion Dollars worth of goods & products. These massive payments go directly to the Treasury of the U.S." Um… not quite, and this is where Colorado’s outdoors comes in.

If you recall your basic economics from middle school, you know that a tariff is an additional tax placed on imported goods, to make them more expensive than American-made competitive products, thus making the American product cheaper by comparison and hence, more desirable. If you recall that, you recall morethan the president. When Trump adds, say, a 25% additional tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods (practically all the goods not previously hit with tariffs), who pays? If you say consumers do, you already know more about tariffs than the president knows. 

And guess what this new round of tariffs hits hard: Outdoor stuff. Hiking and camping clothing and gear and more. A recent Colorado Politics article covers the Colorado impacts of this so-called “4thlist” of products upon which the president has added a tariff. That list now runs to 142 pages long and it hits Colorado products especially harshly. 

The deadlines are getting close for Colorado businesses — the implementation date is over the summer, though there is some wiggle room in when it will kick in. You the consumer will find a 25% increase in price on skis, kayaks, jackets, ski pants, and more. List 4 includes cane sugar, corned beef, and a cornucopia of other products that we get from China.

It’s always a risky game to play “tariff wars” with another strong economy. Economists like to talk about situations with “perfect information,” which basically means everyone involved has a full and complete understanding of all the implications and risks of such action. Even with “perfect information” these trade issues are fraught with danger. Add to the mix a president who thinks China pays the tariffs “directly to the treasury” and you have a truly dangerous international economic crisis.

I enjoyed my Texas time, but I’m glad to be home to a state with tall mountains, fresh running rivers, nice folks, and admittedly, some May snow. But I worry for my Colorado brothers and sisters, especially those involved in small businesses, that run on very tight margins, when these new tariffs kick in. Oh, my word, he’s even putting a tariff on sweet biscuits, “gingerbread and alike,” and Irish whiskies (not sure how much of that last one China makes). So, tighten up those belts and be prepared to pay more for, well, belts, because those are on the list too. Anyway, it’s nice to be home. 

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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