Free Trade

Spooky! Tariffs Hike Prices for Costumes, Candy, Cider, and Other Halloween Favorites

The specter of mercantilism rises from the dead!



It began, like so many scary stories do, with the unleashing of an ancient evil by a few people too blinded by naivety or hubris to understand fully the consequences of their actions.

By the time the innocents start getting hurt, it's too late.

It's true that the Trump administration's tariffs are not hacking virgins to death or creating a plague of zombies, but they are nonetheless a Halloween horror this year. Costumes and holiday decorations imported from China are subject to 10 percent tariffs (which could increase to 25 percent next year as—like all good monsters—they become more difficult to stop), while other tariffs are increasing the price of holiday treats like candy and cider.

Amid hundreds of comments submitted earlier this year to the Office Of United States Trade Representative in opposition to the Trump administration's plan to impose tariffs on an estimated $250 billion of Chinese-made goods, costume shops and sellers of seasonal goods stressed how the tariffs could put a stake through their businesses. Advantus Corporation, which sells fabric used to make costumes, decorations, and crafts, told the Trade Representative that higher taxes on Chinese-made goods would force price increases of at least 10 percent, and could raise the specter of job losses too.

Chris Ironfield, who told the Trade Representative's tariff committee that he worked for a small California-based retailer, wrote that the new tariffs on China "could potentially put us out of business as we could not compete with larger companies and retailers like Rubies, Disguise, Party City and Spirit Halloween who can absorb the tariff for a long period."

That's perhaps the scariest part of tariffs: they prey on the weakest and most vulnerable. Like any regressive tax, the tariffs will hit discount retailers (and their customers) the hardest.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA), which represents more than 700 companies that make chocolate, candy, and other sugary sweets, warns that tariffs will increase prices and limit selection of holiday goodies. Halloween marks the beginning of the most crucial time of the year for American candymakers, with about 75 percent of all U.S. candy sales occurring between September and April, according to the NCA. With the price of candy already inflated by federal sugar subsidies, tariffs add an additional trick to those treats.

Grown-ups aren't immune from the threat that stalks Halloween this year. Thanks to tariffs on steel and aluminum, the brewers of autumnal favorites like pumpkin-flavored beers and craft ciders are feeling the squeeze. Justin Heilenbach, president and co-founder of Citizen Cider in Burlington, Vermont, tells Vermont Public Radio that he has little choice but to pass the increased cost along to consumers. Unable to compete with cheaper kegs made in countries that aren't artificially inflating the price of steel, Pennsylvania-based American Keg could go out of business.

"From costumes to cider, trade wars can have 'tarrify-ing' consequences for Americans," says Kevin Schweers, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, a nonprofit that advocates for free markets and opposes the Trump administration's tariff policies. "No matter how anyone tries to dress them up, tariffs are nothing more than sales taxes that unfairly charge the working class more for everyday goods."

If the individual horrors of the trade war aren't bad enough, the tariffs also run the risk of bewitching the economy as a whole. Overall growth has slowed and the stock market was shaken this month by earnings reports from several major American companies highlighting the tariffs as a source of growing concern. Economists warn that the newest round of tariffs will bite into consumers' wallets during the holiday season and could bury the economic benefits of last year's tax cut.

The ghoulish tariffs unleashed by the Trump administration can only be halted by the same people who created them—or by Congress, if our elected lawmakers weren't too scared of the power they wield. Until a hero arises to slay the beast, the terror of the tariffs will continue—and the consequences are, despite what the president might tell you, not just a ghost story.

NEXT: Libertarian Larry Sharpe Has Raised a Record $450,000 in New York Governor's Race

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  1. The other side:
    Revenue is up, sales are up, happy days are here again - - - - - -

  2. On the other hand:
    Sales are up, revenue is up, business is good!

    1. Damn it. Got me again!
      I recycled three times to see if the post would pop up or not.
      Oh well, squirrels 1, me 0.

  3. If we're trying to persuade the general public, . . .

    Stories that emphasize how bad tariffs are for consumers = good.

    Stores that emphasize how bad tariffs are for the profits of large corporations = bad

    This is a good story.

    It's a little tough ahead of this election, though, because everything that happens seems to be about the midterms the closer we get to them, and so every story that criticizes tariffs just seems to be urging voters to turn out for the Democrats.

    It would be so much easier if there were some free trade Democrats out there. The problem is that Trump has actually done many of the things the Democrats have been promising to do since the Clinton Administration, and so the only way they can differentiate themselves is by going after him on non-economic topics like rape culture, immigration, etc.

    "In a letter to the Commerce Department Tuesday, [Senator Elizabeth Warren] asked why so many early exemptions were granted to "subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies?even though these tariffs are purportedly in place to protect American companies.""


    I guess that's Warren's and the Democrats argument for 2020: She and they are more Trump than Trump on restricting trade--and if that's the case, Trump may be a better choice for libertarians between the two.

    1. One thing that utterly baffles me is how the idealogues on the Left have come to see Warren more as Bernie Sanders (however romanticized their impression of his own principles are) and less as Hillary. Disgruntled "the party walked away from me" Republican turned leftier-than-thou type, corporate welfarist (Ex-Im bank supporter), cultural appropriator of the most ridiculously caricatured type and one that actually cheated others out of their racially "deserved" advantages (and who to this day continues to double down on it in the most cringe and maladroit way, culminating in an actual, vicious condemnation by the actual Indians). And every word out of her mouth, her very cloying tone, drips with insincerity like an awful actress. I just don't get the appeal. But people swear by her like she's the Messiah with the idealistic integrity of Harriet Tubman crossed with Rosa Luxemburg.

      1. It's because the type of people she's talking to like hearing the right words coming out of her mouth and couldn't possibly give less of a fuck about what she actually does. She's a woman who's going to run for President, and much like Barak they couldn't care less about the actual person. They're just checking boxes on what their next candidate needs to be, and it certainly appears they're going to run women until one of them manages to win.

        There's nothing wrong with running a woman candidate for President, but I think the assumption that they'll be at all different from a man in governing philosophy is probably inherently misguided. It boils down to 'vote vagina, regardless of qualifications, because history'. When you vote based on being 'historic' you're essentially throwing any ideals that actually matter out the window.

      2. One of the problems is that so many of the terrible things we hear from Democrats on economics are originating from Warren herself. She's considered their intellectual heft.

        Obama's "You didn't build that" quip was basically lifted from one of Warren's fundraising speeches.

        Start at 50 seconds with, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own".

        That video is an excellent example of why progressives are America's most horrible people.

        1. I don't think they originate with Warren, she has few to none original thoughts. I think she's just the fastest to jump onto the stupid train.

          1. She articulates them well, and they chase her on that.

            1. She doesn't even articulate them well, like everyone else she just ignores any and all negative consequences or relabels them as features. She's an empty skull in a suit, just like Obama.

  4. Oh no! We might need to go to a small costume shop and rent something instead of buying a cheap plastic piece of garbage that's ruined the second you put it on, yet it still somehow manages to cost more than a quality rental!

    Whatever will we do?!

    What do all the blue collar types do when they've been priced out of the market by government trade policies and labor regulations? I guess we'll all just live in a UBI-topia!

  5. will dressing as a tariff cost me, or cost me?

    1. That's a taxing question.

  6. Oh well, it will force greedy capitalists to make products locally instead of taking the cheap profitable way out of buying stuff made by Chinese slave labor.

    I wonder who will make the products that used to be made by those same workers? Trumpistas like to brag about "his" low unemployment rate; it can't get much lower just due to the way they make up that statistic. Well, who needed those old products anyway, just so much junk if it's not worth as much as the new more expensive replacements for what used to be made by slave labor. And the fact that comparative advantage has been distorted, and the market is that much more inefficient, adding less value for the same labor and material input, well, national security ain't free, buddy boy!

  7. It's true that the Trump administration's tariffs are not hacking virgins to death or creating a plague of zombies

    Well... not yet anyway.

  8. Cider? WTF.

    I didn't know Washington, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and other states were included with tariffs on China. And most cider is delivered in plastic containers made in the U.S.

    Fuck Off REASON.

    1. If you click on the 'cider' link in the article, it's referring to the steel & aluminum needed for the fermenting/brewing of hard cider, similar to the apparati needed to process beer.

  9. Oh, Boo Hoo!

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