Free Trade

Americans Paid $7.6 Billion in Tariffs During August, a New Monthly Record

The trade deficit is now the widest on record too.


Former President Donald Trump hiked tariffs on a wide range of imported goods, President Joe Biden has refused to cut them, and that bipartisan opposition to free trade means Americans are now paying higher import taxes than ever.

The federal government collected more than $7.6 billion in tariffs during the month of August, according to recently released figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks economic data. That's an amount that exceeds even the highest single-month total during the Trump administration and one that dwarves monthly tariff revenue from earlier years.

Dan Anthony, managing director of Trade Partnership Worldwide, an economic research firm, confirmed in an email to Reason that August's revenue figures are the highest on record. Tariff exclusions and refunds could reduce that figure in future updates, he noted, if the Biden administration approves retroactive tariff exclusions. However, he says it seems unlikely that enough exclusions would be granted for tariffs to fall below previous records.

As the economy has bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Census Bureau data shows, Americans are importing more valuable goods than ever—and paying more to the government for the privilege. America imported $287 billion worth of goods during August, also the highest total on record. The country's trade deficit—the gap between the value of all imports and all exports, which Trump had claimed would be reduced by hiking tariffs—was $73.3 billion, also the highest ever recorded.

It can be a mistake to make too much out of a single month's economic data, but these numbers provide some small insight into the failures of the Trump administration's trade policies. Higher tariffs did not reduce Americans' desire to buy imported goods. They did not reduce the trade deficit (quite the opposite, in fact). They were not paid for by China or other foreign nations, but by American companies importing those goods (and the costs are passed along to other buyers and consumers down the supply chain).

Those points are particularly salient at a time when the Biden administration is signaling a desire to maintain and perhaps even escalate Trump's tariffs. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said this week that tariffs remain "a very important tool" in enforcing trade agreements. That's a Trump-like statement that suggests trade policy must primarily benefit the government over the interests of individuals and businesses. In reality, trade is beneficial because it allows for the exchange of goods between people—even people who live on opposite sides of national borders—not because it creates opportunities for nations to collect taxes or create leverage on other foreign policy issues.

Biden's view, as Tai outlined on Monday, is that trade policy must be oriented towards "boosting American competitiveness." That's also nonsense, as higher taxes on imports are nothing but a drag on America's competitiveness—to say nothing of the other taxes the administration is seeking to impose and raise on American businesses, consumers, and investors.

Biden could undo Trump's tariffs with the stroke of a pen. Instead, Tai signaled this week that the administration is taking steps—like reconfiguring the bureaucratic process that decides which companies could be exempt from paying those tariffs—that will only entrench them.

Fine. Then Biden deserves to share the blame for the huge (if somewhat hidden) tax increases that the tariffs represent.

In April 2018, the last month before Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum (a prelude to his more expansive tariffs on imports from China, which were imposed in stages during late 2018 and early 2019) took effect, the government's tariff revenue totaled just $2.8 billion—or about $5 billion less than what was collected in August. Over the course of a year, that's roughly a $60 billion tax increase relative to pre-trade war levels.

Revenue extracted by the federal government is not the only cost imposed by tariffs, of course. They also warp supply chains, change investment decisions, and encourage more spending on lobbyists and lawyers.

But the huge increase in monthly tariff payments to the government over the past few years is an obvious indicator of how much Americans are paying for Trump's trade policy—a trade policy that Biden increasingly owns too.

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  1. Biden could undo Trump’s tariffs with the a stroke of a pen.


  2. All these tariffs, the Trumpistas must have permanent hard-ons by now.

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    2. Americans Paid $7.6 Billion in Tariffs During August, a New Monthly Record


      Former President Donald Trump hiked tariffs on a wide range of imported goods


      1. It’s all Trump, all the time!

      2. Orange Man bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He Make America Great Again!

        We KNOW He can Make America Great Again, because, as a bad-ass businessman, He Made Himself and His Family Great Again! He Pussy Grabber in Chief!

        See The Atlantic article by using the below search-string in quotes:
        “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet” or this one…

        He pussy-grab His creditors in 7 bankruptcies, His illegal sub-human workers ripped off of pay on His building projects, and His “students” in His fake Get-Rich-like-Me realty schools, and so on. So, He has a GREAT record of ripping others off! So SURELY He can rip off other nations, other ethnic groups, etc., in trade wars and border wars, for the benefit of ALL of us!!!

        All Hail to THE Pussy Grabber in Chief!!!

        Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! The Donald has figured out that all of the un-Americans are SOOO stupid, that we can pussy-grab them all day, every day, and they will NEVER think of pussy-grabbing us right back!

        Orange Man Bad-Ass Pussy-Grabber all right!

        We CAN grab all the pussy, all the time, and NONE will be smart enough to EVER grab our pussies right back!

        These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics… You can pussy-grab all of the people some of the time, and you can pussy-grab some of the people all of the time, but you cannot pussy-grab all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will pussy-grab you right back!

        1. > He pussy-grab His creditors in 7 bankruptcies

          I can understand one bankruptcy. I can understand two bankruptcies. I can even understand three bankruptcies. But more than three wives means you should never marry again, and more then three bankruptcies should never borrow again. I blame Trump I also blame whoever lent to him.

          Seven bankruptcies with seven year grace period in between, assuming he started borrowing at age 18, means it was an average of fourteen months from the time he got off the debt wagon and right back into bankruptcy. That he thinks himself a financial genius is amazing, that banks still lend to him is astounding.

          It’s not the nature of his business. I know someone in commercial real estate, and he never been bankrupt once in sixty years.

          1. You don’t get to be rich by paying your own bills. Ask Bernie about his millions and the 3 or 4 houses he earned in his lifetime of selfless public service.

            “I did not see a hungry child. I did not see any homeless people,” Sanders told the Burlington Free Press. While Cuba was “not a perfect society,” he said, the country “not only has free health care but very high-quality health care . . . The revolution there is far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”

    3. You’re not very bright, are you?

    4. They match the hardons democrats have had for taiffs for decades

      1. Chemically induced, but Biden took that Viagra specifically for the tariffs.

  3. I love the links about warping supply chains — to other opinion pieces at Reason.

    I’m very much of the opinion that tarrifs are ultimately paid by consumers (pretty much all taxes). But the willful ignorance of trade manipulation, currency manipulation, and other issues that massively distort international markets, especially with China, really makes Reason arguments sound less reasonable, and more like the OBL parody so well shown in the comments sections.

    1. There is a cost for tariffs, but it also can cause a supplier shift. There is also a cost from increased domestic costs from security increases and IP loss due to corporate theft. Reason just completely ignores the latter.

  4. Then Biden deserves to share the blame for the huge (if somewhat hidden) tax increases that the tariffs represent.

    Someone got to Boehm. Was it threats or blackmail?

    1. To be fair, it’s only “share the blame”, not take the blame.

  5. Fuck Joe Biden.

    No Taxation without Representation!

    1. Dump all the coffee into Boston Harbor and I guarantee you a revolution. An Uncivil War.

    2. Fuck Joe biden

  6. Just up the tariffs 1000% and the $6 trillion Green New Deal is funded. Economics is easy.

    1. It would be unfair and absurd to think prices would be raised to cover the tariffs.

  7. Ahead of the vote on raising the debt ceiling, Manchin is saying he won’t support killing the filibuster.

    “Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Wednesday that he remains opposed to changing the Senate’s legislative filibuster, dealing a blow to progressive hopes to use a rules change as an escape hatch from a fight over the nation’s borrowing limit.”

    Rumors have it that McConnell is working on a deal with Schumer, but no indication yet of what that entails. There’s no indication that the Senate Republicans aren’t unified in opposition to voting to raise the debt ceiling during Schumer’s vote later today. Let the Democrats authorize legislation to go over the debt ceiling on a case by case basis–on their own–and just leave the Democrats to twist in the wind. That’s what I’d do. That’s what I’m hoping for.

    Fuck Joe Biden.

    My name is Ken Shultz, and I approved this message.

    1. Fuck Joe Biden

      1. I feel your pain, loser.

        1. Fuck Joe Friday.

          1. I believe the consensus is that she’s White Mike, which explains a lot. The cawcawphony of caws reeked of that special kind of stupid we all know so well and associate with White Mike. I doubt we’ll miss anything by muting her.

            1. Or Ken, could you just try to debate someone who’s not a fellow true believer. You can keep up the insults too – I can throw elbows – but try to put some beef on the bones so it’s interesting.

          2. Thanks, but I’m happily married.

            1. Is your wife?

    2. Update:

      “WASHINGTON—The top Senate Republican proposed allowing Democrats to pass a short-term debt limit extension into December, as both parties looked to break an impasse ahead of a looming mid-October deadline for the U.S. to continue paying its bills.

      In a statement after a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky proposed allowing Democrats to “use normal procedures to pass an emergency debt limit extension at a fixed dollar amount to cover current spending levels into December.”

      If Manchin, Sinema, and the moderate Democrats in the House came to believe that the only way to avoid the U.S. defaulting on its debt was to vote for Joe Biden’s and the progressives’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, then it would provide a big incentive for them to do so. That appears to be the logic here. By raising the debt ceiling by the amount the U.S. would default on between now and December 4th–until Congress is long gone (during the holidays)–McConnell is taking pressure off the moderate Democrats to pass the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

      I thought he was better off letting them twist in the wind, but he may have had conversations with Sinema, Manchin and the moderate Democrats in the House about what they would do in the event of a pending default. More details will no doubt emerge, but if McConnel’s primary objective is to destroy support for the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, to the best of his ability, and this is towards that end, then he’s probably doing the right thing.

      Certainly, if the Democrats don’t pass the bill by December 4th, the bill is probably dead. Congress campaigns at homes and does fund raisers during the holidays, and once we get into next year, an election year, even fewer Democrats will want to support the controversial spending programs in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. Meanwhile, time isn’t on Biden’s and the progressives’ side. Inflation keeps roaring up, especially in regards to energy, and the markets are already reacting to that.

      McConnel is pinning them down inside their own five yard line, and he’s trying to run the clock out. Everybody hates the prevent defense, but under these circumstances, that’s probably his best bet.

      1. As much as I detest all these fake crises and fake alarum scarums, they don’t really bother me in the long run, because the great mass of sheeple do have limits, and when energy doubles in price and people start worrying about staying warm and getting fed over the winter, all fake principles about global warming and fake pronouns go out the window.

        Europe is a good example. The “rulers” think they can mandate no fossil fuels by 2050; they have run into so much opposition that they have had to pay exorbitant amounts to restart coal power plants and beg Putin to send them more natural gas. The people may not have much direct control over these “rulers”, but they can at least scare the current crop at election time. It won’t be even five years in my estimation before this green house of cards comes tumbling down.

        What follows, I have no idea. But when the Green Revolution hits reality, people will dump it hard.

        1. “The great mass of sheeple do have limits, and when energy doubles in price and people start worrying about staying warm and getting fed over the winter, all fake principles about global warming and fake pronouns go out the window.”

          I want to avoid that pain.

          Animals can react to mistakes and learn to avoid them in the future.

          We’re smarter than animals. Well, progressives generally aren’t, but the rest of are, and why should we suffer their mistakes when we can choose to avoid them? Even the moderate Democrats aren’t stupid enough to want to subject their constituents to progressive stupidity!

          Incidentally, in the updated proposal, McConnell is saying this:

          “Mr. McConnell, in making his proposal, sought to undercut Democratic claims that using reconciliation procedures would be too time-consuming. “This will moot Democrats’ excuse about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass stand-alone debt limit legislation through reconciliation.”

          If I’m reading this right, we’re still talking about forcing the Democrats to pass an exemption to each and every part bill in piecemeal fashion. It’s a poison pill for Democrats. If they can’t get their progressive and moderate wings lined up, each of them will need to go on the record for every single bill.

          And the beautiful part is that the Democrats have no Plan B. Plan B was getting rid of the filibuster, but Manchin came out publicly today and said he’s as much against that as he always was. The Democrats can either do it piecemeal between now and October 18, or they can do it piecemeal between now and December 4th. And the longer this drags out (December 4th), the worse it’s gonna get as Biden popularity continues to plummet and the midterms get nearer.

          I’m almost allowing myself to start getting hopeful, but that’s always dangerous for libertarians. Sometimes, it seems like we’re doomed to play the Warrior-Poet of the Forlorn hope.

          1. I pray for Senator McConnell’s health nightly. 🙂

            There is no one better than Mitch McConnell to stop the Biden agenda in the Senate. No one. One wonders how the Senator feels now, seeing the actions and policies put forward by AG (and thankfully not Justice) Merrick Garland. I’d say time has proved him to be correct vis a vis his actions back in 2016.

          2. Oh yeah Ken, McConnell nailed this like Greg Louganis doing his belly flop.

            No, you’re not reading this right. Democrats will do better by lining up on the specifics of the reconciliation bill which is market tested and popular. Not with the 5% and Libertarians, but with the majority of Americans:

            “The ambitious and expensive Democratic spending bills being debated on Capitol Hill have a big advantage: Most Americans support them.

            The $1 trillion infrastructure bill was backed by 63% of Americans in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. And the $3.5 trillion budget plan, the most significant expansion of the social safety net since LBJ’s Great Society, was endorsed by 52%.

            The infrastructure bill, which has passed the Senate and is scheduled to be voted on by the House late next month, was forged across partisan lines and is backed by 36% of Republicans as well as nearly all Democrats. The massive budget reconciliation measure, which so far has drawn only Democratic votes, was supported by 9 of 10 Democrats, 1 in 5 Republicans and close to half of independents.

            The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone Thursday through Tuesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points…”


            1. Polls?

              Haven’t they largely been propaganda on everything important since the malaise of the Soviet Union 30 years ago?

        2. As Tim Pool pointed out, a people that demand multiple types of orange juice to satisfy their desire/disdain for pulp are in no way able to handle an actually zero carbon society.

      2. Ah, McConnel’s groupie posting here as if no one else could read a newspaper, and also share his titillation at every blue collar screwing and top 5% guardrail his hero pulls while pretending he has any principles with a sell on date past the half and half on my top shelf. I’m guessing he buys the extended version and wears it out.

        1. Are you just pasting insults together that you read on Twitter? That screed had nothing to do with the topic, contained multiple mixed metaphors, and the last sentence is a callback with no antecedent.

          Whether you agree with him or not, Ken is trying to start a conversation.

          You are an immature nitwit giggling to yourself as you run away from Ken’s porch still clutching a pile of dogshit having lit an empty bag and rung the doorbell.

          1. Chuck, Ken doesn’t want a conversation, he wants a revival meeting with a room full of the faithful. I tried to engage him on another thread and he pretended he had a bad connection. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m beneath his deep thoughts based on right wing homilies and hatreds, but if so, that would be his chance to take scalps, count coups, and show off that rarely used brain of his.

            1. I will take that your answer to my question is yes.

              Have you even noticed the dogshit is in your hand yet, dumbass? The bag has burnt up and Ken didn’t answer the door. You have to notice the smell at this point.

            2. It’s clear that YOU are the bad connection. Poor grammar, punctuation, hell, your sentences have the damnedest rhythm, like a limerick with too few or too many syllables, or wrong accentuated. Then once one perseveres and gets to the meat of the matter, it turns out to be just as discombobulated and confused.

              Invite a conversation? Why would anyone think your ramblings were an invitation?

            3. that would be his chance to take scalps, count coups,

              Officer, is Ken not free to gambol about the plain?

              The old trolls always find a way back.

            4. This is why people believe you are white mike.

            5. How would anybody show off their brain debating you?

              It’s smarter to just mock you than to pretend that your moronic utterances rise to the level of making a point. I do not wish to go through all the work to CREATE the point you were incapable of creating yourself.

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  9. Okay, now how much have we paid in income taxes? The difference being income tax is not constitutional where as tarrifs are. If you don’t like tarrifs take it up with your congressman, if you don’t like incom tax the screw you

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  11. I feel you pain, loser.

    As if your heroes didn’t vote for debt ceiling relief over and over for Bush and Trump and now “filibuster” Democrats trying to be responsible. You don’t really have any standards, do you.

    1. Because there is no difference between being slightly over the limit and being triple over the limit. Speed. Blood alcohol. Etc.

    1. Ken Dilanian. Goddamned reason comment bullshit. Get into the 1990s.

      1. Ken doing this is beyond not surprising to anybody who has followed his work at all.

    2. Anyhoo, again, I need new conspiracy theories. All my old ones have come true.

  12. 7.66 billion?
    At 6 trillion dollars per year (the new baseline budget), 7.66 billion will only fund the government for 11 hours and 11 minutes.

    We need to tax ourselves even more to show those other countries we mean business.

    1. And then increase foreign aid.

      1. The one budget line item a majority of Americans actually supports cutting. Yet it is somehow never cut.

        1. Even during the ‘pandemic’.

  13. That doesn’t make any sense. I thought tariffs punished foreign governments, not Americans.

    1. That’s not even sarcasm unless you travel back in time 3 years, you shithead. You finally earned the mute.

      1. Like I give a shit.

      2. Being that you can’t disagree with someone without calling them names, I welcome being muted by your antagonistic ass.

    2. There’s a difference between using tariffs as a tool to leverage a better trade deal, with the idea of removing tariffs from the other side. It’s another thing to make those tariffs structural, for their own sake.

      I know you aren’t capable of understanding that, but I’m throwing it out there anyway. Now please proceed to protect your precious democrats and attack Trump.

    3. There was a poster here who used to point out that when you tax something you get less of it. You could apply such reasoning to imports to gauge whether any punishment is involved.

      1. But is that punishing foreign governments? Or foreign producers and domestic consumers?

        1. $3.3 trillion in income and payroll taxes “punish” (i.e., discourage) US workers and distorts the market.

          That is, given the high cost of US labor, products that in a free market would be produced in the US are produced abroad and imported, making Americans much, much poorer than they otherwise would be.

          That’s what you should be concerned about.

          US tariffs and US labor costs are way out of balance.

          1. That is, given the high cost of US labor, products that in a free market would be produced in the US are produced abroad and imported, making Americans much, much poorer than they otherwise would be.

            So Americans would be richer if we had low-paying jobs producing junk, rather than having high paying jobs and importing cheaply produced junk?

            1. Not to mention sarcasmic that about 80% of US job losses in the last decades were taken by automation, not foreigners.

        2. In a way. By reducing the desirability of goods made in that country, it reduces their tax base (less demand = fewer workers) and potential for additional capital investment by would-be offshorers.

          There’s a reason why over the course of human history nations have much preferred being exporters to importers. Pure mercantilism is silly of course, but TANSTAAFL applies to trade as well.

    4. Tariffs don’t “punish” anybody; they encourage and discourage certain activities.

      $7.9 billion in tariffs on imported goods is peanuts compared to the $3.3 trillion in income and payroll taxes. The US government is taxing American labor while letting foreign producers take over more and more of the US market.

      1. Foreign producers taking over the market? What does that even mean? That imports are bad?

  14. I’ve paid my fair share of tariffs.

  15. who are you trying to convince with the both sides game?

  16. Come on, the CPI has only gone up a bit over 5% for the past year and the gov’t has recognized that fact by letting us increase our tax deductible HSA contributions by a whopping 1.4%! We’ll all be rich soon with that extra tax free stash! Good thing medical costs have plummeted recently.

    What? Really? Shit!

  17. First line: “Former President Donald Trump hiked tariffs on a wide range of imported goods” Were you not paying attention when this happened? You left out context and the bigger picture — tariffs were strategically raised on certain good from specific countries as leverage to get those countries to feel a pinch and reduce outrageous and unfair tariffs of their own on US imported products. There was a method to the madness, a plan with a purpose, which isn’t even hinted at in the article. But I suppose that’s only fitting, as the strategy has now been completely forgotten, abandoned, and politicized as we continue further into the next presidency.

    1. Were you not paying attention when this happened?

      Oh, Boehm was paying attention; his messaging is propaganda: cheap imports from China, low consumption taxes, and high income taxes. It’s not good for Americans, but it’s good for the people who send him his paycheck.

    2. That worked well. China has totally caved in.

      It was a failed tactic. Not a strategy.

  18. Americans Paid $7.6 Billion in Tariffs During August, a New Monthly Record

    Americans also paid $200 billion in income tax during August. Let’s turn that around: let’s reduce income tax to $7.6 billion and get $200 billion in tariffs. We’d be much better off as a nation.

    1. I am better off how?

      Let’s go with half of that as a starting point.

  19. $7,000B trade debt
    – $7.6B paid
    = $6,992.4B Balance (That would be in the Right direction)

    1. Did you think a trade deficit was a net loss? It is a net gain. It means that I can purchase something in exchange for green pieces of paper.

      Milton Friedman explains it thus:

      “In the international trade area, the language is almost always about how we must export, and what’s really good is an industry that produces exports, and if we buy from abroad and import, that’s bad. But surely that’s upside-down. What we send abroad, we can’t eat, we can’t wear, we can’t use for our houses. The goods and services we send abroad, are goods and services not available to us. On the other hand, the goods and services we import, they provide us with TV sets we can watch, with automobiles we can drive, with all sorts of nice things for us to use.

      The gain from foreign trade is what we import. What we export is a cost of getting those imports. And the proper objective for a nation as Adam Smith put it, is to arrange things so that we get as large a volume of imports as possible, for as small a volume of exports as possible.”

      So the first part of your made up equation is nonsense.

      The second part is a tax on me. You are arguing that import taxes are a net gain. They are not. I pay those out of taxed earned income in costs for everything.

      The USSR tried to maintain an internal controlled economy. It could not. Without trade, and nobody wanted to buy Bulgarian shoes, they had chronic shortages of everything and crappy products. Everyone wanted western products. They could not get them.

      I recall that some people were smuggling in Zildjian cymbals, fender guitars and other instruments to aspiring Russian musicians. That is what you get when government decides what is best.

  20. Good, that should give companies an incentive to bring back manufacturing of certain “critical” industries back to the United States (medical, military, computer chips). The tariffs are working. We certainly learned how vulnerable this country was during the Pandemic.

    1. The medical, military and semi conductor industries need more central government planning and direction. Same goes for social media and internet platforms.

      Is that what you are saying ?

      Yeah. The government politicians did all that.

      You are arguing from a central planned authoritarian base. Well that is where you are. Tariffs are not an incentive they are a disincentive and tax on consumer.

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  22. Although this is the first article I’ve read in some time about the issue, the information didn’t come as a surprise. Trump’s aluminum tariffs, which mostly impact friendly Canada, not China, are the reason it’s still difficult to find many beverages in aluminum cans as manufacturers use their limited aluminum supplies to can the more profitable cheap beers. On the other hand, the steel tariffs haven’t done much to boost the price of my U.S. Steel stock.

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