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May 14, 2019 | Learning to Love Heavy New Tariffs

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

The on-again, off-again trade deal with China has put some life into the stock market, all of it vicious (click on inset). It has also invigorated an otherwise moribund discussion concerning weather tariffs are good or bad. Popular wisdom has it that the mere talk of Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation caused the stock market to gyrate wildly in 1929 and eventually to crash. Pat Buchanan does a good job debunking this myth in a think-piece published on his web site entitled Tariffs: The Taxes That Made America Great. Maybe. But it’s hard to get around the logic of classical economics, which holds that it is always economically beneficial for a nation to buy from the lowest-cost producer, since the savings can be invested to produce things at which the nation excels.

Rewarding a Deflator

In practice, however, much of our savings gets invested in digital smoke-and-mirrors. Uber, for instance. How else could a company that in purely economic terms is a deflation catalyst command an $80 billion valuation? (That amount was precipitously reduced, incidentally, by a 10% plunge in the stock since Monday, when the ride-hailing firm went public). If we invested wisely, Adam Smith’s Law of Comparative Advantage would work beautifully, increasing productivity and thereupon wealth. We don’t invest wisely, however, simply because most of our money comes not from hard-earned savings, but from infinitely available credit created out of thin air by the banksters. So Pat Buchanan winds up being right: Tariffs can’t hurt America — not unless the Fed chooses not to make America’s farmers and others on whom the tax falls most heavily whole by monetizing their losses. China will lose a lot of sales in the U.S. as exporters in other countries ramp up to fill the void. As for the stock market, bears had better step out of the way, because they’ve been played.

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May 14th, 2019

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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