After the debate, he wrote this in The New York Times, which is correct:
He followed up with this:[I]t seems to be conventional wisdom that Trump did well in the first 15 minutes. And I guess he did if you are impressed by someone talking loudly and confidently about a subject he really doesn’t understand. But really: Trump on trade was ignorance all the way.There were specifics: China is “devaluing” (not so — it was holding down the yuan five years ago, but these days it’s intervening to keep the yuan up, not down.) There was this, on Mexico:Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there’s no tax. It’s a defective agreement. It’s been defective for a long time, many years, but the politicians haven’t done anything about it.Gah. A VAT is basically a sales tax. It is levied on both domestic and imported goods, so that it doesn’t protect against imports — which is why it’s allowed under international trade rules, and not considered a protectionist trade policy. I get that Trump is not an economist — hoo boy, is he not an economist — but this is one of his signature issues, so you might have expected him to learn a few facts.
I’ve been writing about Donald Trump’s claim that Mexico’s value-added tax is an unfair trade policy, which is just really bad economics. Here’s Joel Slemrod explaining that a VAT has the same effects as a sales tax. Now, nobody thinks that sales taxes are an unfair trade practice. New York has fairly high sales taxes; Delaware has no such tax. Does anyone think that this gives New York an unfair advantage in interstate competition?But it turns out that Trump wasn’t saying ignorant things off the top of his head: he was saying ignorant things fed to him by his incompetent economic advisers. Here’s the campaign white paper on economics. The VAT discussion is on pages 12-13 — and it’s utterly uninformed.And it’s not the worst thing: there’s lots of terrible stuff in the white paper, at every level.Should we be reassured that Trump wasn’t actually winging it here, just taking really bad advice? Not at all. This says that if he somehow becomes president, and decides to take the job seriously, it won’t help — because his judgment in advisers, his notion of who constitutes an expert, is as bad as his judgment on the fly.
Which is not to say that Hillary's economic thinking is any sounder, only that