Remember when trade wars were “good, and easy to win?” President Donald Trump’s glib declaration now has been replaced by a new one, from his Senate surrogate, Lindsey Graham: Americans should “accept the pain” of Trump’s trade war with China.

That pain is felt largely (though not solely) by farmers — many of whom count themselves among Trump’s base. This president’s arrogance and incompetent handling of trade negotiations has put farmers in a lurch, while threatening the strong economy Trump likes to brag so much about. At this rate, Democrats could discover the 2020 election is “easy to win.”

Contrary to his claims, Trump’s decision to blow up America’s trade relationship with the world’s most populous country wasn’t forced by China’s trade practices. While those practices have been unfair, that’s an issue for the bargaining table, not the front lines of a trade war. Trump made a unilateral decision to start that war, based on his belligerent worldview that life is a zero-sum endeavor: For someone to win, someone else has to lose.

In fact, free trade at its best is a positive for all sides. That certainly was true for America’s farmers, who for years have supplied China with the soybeans and other crops it needs. It’s been a huge, stable market. But stability doesn’t impress this president. He prefers chaos. And now he has it.

As if to admit how damaging this policy has been, the administration has thrown $28 billion in financial aid at farmers — money American taxpayers also have to foot instead of Chinese markets. Even so, farm bankruptcies are sharply up. No wonder, as the New York Times reports, that farmers at a Minnesota gathering last month roundly booed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Trade wars aren’t good and, as America’s farmers and consumers are learning, there are generally no winners.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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