Donald Trump is an idiot. We know he's an idiot. We know he doesn't know his ass from his elbow. We've said as much many times. And yet his idiocy still manages to blow me away from time to time.
I had a moment like that last night after reading that Trump believes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is going to pay for his fantasy border wall.
From the Wall Street Journal:
“We’ve made a lot of headway. We’re moving along nicely,” Mr. Trump said of the Nafta negotiations. That was a more positive portrayal than has previously been offered by his chief trade negotiator, who has regularly criticized the other countries for responding to U.S. demands with what he considers intransigence. [...]
And after repeatedly calling for Mexico to pay for a border wall, Mr. Trump said for the first time that the Nafta talks might yield, in effect, the funding for construction of the wall.
“They can pay for it indirectly through Nafta,” he said. “We make a good deal on Nafta, and, say, I’m going to take a small percentage of that money and it’s going toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico’s paying.”
To be clear, there is no secret NAFTA bank account. There's no slush fund that Mexico and Canada contribute to. There's no money.
Although he may not realize it, Trump is talking about imposing a new tax on trade to pay for his border wall and he apparently thinks that should be part of any potential "deal." But this wouldn't be a tax on Mexico or Mexican companies, it would be a tax on American companies that import products from Mexico. That tax would be passed down to American consumers in the form of higher prices. Americans would still pay for the wall, not Mexicans.
No, I don't believe Trump understands any of this and that's why it should scare everyone.
It's possible Trump may withdraw from NAFTA and wreck the economy because he believes a thing that can't happen should happen.
I can scarcely imagine how frustrating it must be for Mexican and Canadian trade officials to even talk to their American counterparts who don't know anything about anything.