Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decided to have a little fun when he appeared on air Friday to discuss President Donald Trump’s decision to raise import taxes on steel and aluminum, which was announced yesterday.
Ross brought along cans of Budweiser, Campbell’s soup, and Coca-Cola to create a tangible idea of how the protectionist trade policies would impact Americans.
“In the can of Campbell’s soup there’s about 2.6 cents, 2.6 pennies, worth of steel. So if that goes up by 25 percent, that’s about six-tenths of one cent on the price of a can of Campbell’s soup,” he said.
“So who in the world is going to be too bothered by six-tenths of a cent,” he asked later.
Here's U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross using cans of soup, beer, and soda to defend steel and aluminum tariffs. pic.twitter.com/XJWw8MoRGo— CNBC (@CNBC) March 2, 2018
The price climb on cars, however, is more significant, with consumer costs supposedly rising $175.
“The price of a ton of steel is $700 or so. So 25 percent on that would be one half of 1 percent price increase on the typical $35,000 car. So it’s no big deal,” he said.
I just watched the Wilbur Ross clip again. I wonder who thought it was a good idea to have a guy worth nearly $1 billion say a spike in food prices isn’t a big deal.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) March 2, 2018
Critics were unamused by Ross’ attempt to make the tax seem negligible. Some pointed to his enormous personal wealth.
Ooh, this is fun. So a new $175/vehicle tax x 17M vehicles sold in the USA (2017) = almost $3B in new annual consumer taxes, JUST for steel & autos. Then do the same calc for all the other industries and THEN add aluminum taxes, and we're starting to talk real money! https://t.co/nWsC7x0vDM— Scott Lincicome (@scottlincicome) March 2, 2018
Scott Lincicome, who works for a libertarian think tank initially co-founded by Charles Koch, disagreed with Ross’ analysis. Rather than focusing on the individual consumer, Lincicome considered how much the new tariffs would cost the American populace as a whole.
“Ooh, this is fun,” he posted on Twitter. “So a new $175/vehicle tax x 17M vehicles sold in the USA (2017) = almost $3B in new annual consumer taxes, JUST for steel & autos. Then do the same calc for all the other industries and THEN add aluminum taxes, and we're starting to talk real money!"
Liniciome’s analysis seems to be a more pointed measure of just how much these changes will affect the American populace. Although the price increases on small items like soup and beer may appear negligible, when analyzed for the entire population, the climbs are quite noteworthy.
Trump’s real objective is not hidden: He has openly claimed he wants to revitalize the steel industry. As bringing back American jobs was an integral part of his platform, the move will, at least for now, appeal to his base.
As for Ross' prop-filled stunt on CNBC, it was a nice try, but ultimately, unconvincing.