Is Donald Trump a ‘tariffist?’

Headlines about the Trade War caused by the Trump tariffs made me wonder if he qualified as a “tariffist.” However, I could not find the word “tariffist” in the dictionary. Twitter did have a #tariffist hashtag. I then looked up definitions.

A tariff is a tax on imports or exports between sovereign states. It is a form of regulation of foreign trade and a policy that taxes foreign products to encourage or safeguard domestic industry. Traditionally, states have used them as a source of income.

“ist” is a suffix for one that adheres to or advocates a (specified) doctrine or system or code of behavior

If “tariffist” were a word, then by his continual imposition of tariffs and adherence to the policy of using tariffs to achieve political goals, Donald Trump would be the epitome of a “tariffist.” However he does not acknowledge that tariffs are a form of taxation, even though before the income tax was introduced the government was financed by tariffs. Rather he erroneously claims that the tariff tax is paid by the foreign country and not the U.S. citizens who buys the product. And he is using the tariffs for political aims to pressure China and Mexico.

In high school I was taught that the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, after WWI, worsened the Great Depression and even contributed to the start of WWII. I sure hope my teachers were wrong and history does not repeat.

Another word comes to mind and that is terrorist. One definition of terrorist is a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aim. However, to paraphrase Mueller and also Barr, nothing a president does can be unlawful. Therefore Trump can not be a terrorist.

This brings me back to “tariffist,” a non-word. Wikipedia explains that a word gets into a dictionary when it is used by many people who all agree that it means the same thing. First, you drop the word into your conversation and writing, then others pick it up; the more its use spreads, the more likely it will be noticed by dictionary editors.

Wouldn’t it be fun to get a new word into a dictionary.

“tariffist:” a person who uses tariffs for intimidation and to induce violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aim.

Please drop the term “tariffist” into your writing and conversation.

Warren Peascoe