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More On Team Trump’s Proposed Scheme to Use Fraudulent Trade Accounting

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

You describe Trump’s proposed scheme to artificially inflate U.S. trade-deficit figures as an attempt to “deceive” (“A Trump Statistical Trade Trick,” Feb. 21).  Exactly.  Counting goods shipped to other countries through the U.S. as U.S. imports but not as U.S. exports is simply fraudulent.

If the Trump administration gets away with this swindle, don’t be surprised to see it used for other purposes – especially, to further Trump’s goal of stoking Americans’ fears of immigrants.  The same logic that allegedly justifies what you correctly call “single-entry trade bookkeeping” would justify counting all non-Americans who come to the U.S. – even those who come only to visit – as ‘immigrants arriving in the U.S.,’ yet none who return to their home countries counted as ‘immigrants leaving the U.S.’  If this method of measuring immigration flows sounds Orwellian, it is – but it is no more so than is Trump’s proposed new method for measuring trade flows.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030