Before reading the 2018 trade report, many supporters of so-called America First policies were happily chanting “Tariff Man!” After the report, one imagines more were shaking their heads and sighing, “tariffs, man…” From WaPo: Trump promised to shrink the trade deficit. Instead, it exploded. “The United States last year posted a $891.2 billion merchandise trade deficit, the largest in the nation’s 243-year history. The trade gap with China also hit a record $419 billion.”

+ Bloomberg: “By Trump’s own benchmark the U.S. is 20 percent worse off than it was at the end of 2016, just before he took office.”

+ None of this is to suggest that the trade gap should be used as a way to measure winners vs losers. Trump established a goal based on a shoddy understanding of international economics and then failed by a wide margin to meet that goal. NYT: “Mr. Trump has long boasted that his trade policies would reduce that gap, which he views as a measure of whether partners like China and the European Union are taking advantage of the United States, a diagnosis that few economists share.”