Editorial: From Climate to Foreign Policy to Trade, Trump's White House Devalues Expertise

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 16, 2019 | Go to article overview

Editorial: From Climate to Foreign Policy to Trade, Trump's White House Devalues Expertise


Researchers for the U.S. Department of Agriculture say the Trump administration is retaliating against them for highlighting how farmers are being hurt by President Donald Trump's trade and tax policies. Some have resigned over it. The pattern is familiar with this White House, which also clashes with its own experts on issues like climate change and foreign policy. When did expertise become a liability?

Much of Trump's political support comes from rural regions. Farm income has taken an especially big hit from Trump's trade wars. Soybean exports alone are down by $2 billion, because retaliatory tariffs imposed by China in response to Trump's tariffs have deprived American farmers of a market that bought 60 percent of their 2017 crop.

Much of the reason the nation knows all of this is because of the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service, a klatch of government experts who produce reports on farm income and related topics that historically have had a major impact in setting agricultural policy.

You'd think an administration would welcome that kind of reality check from its own experts. But the research service's findings that Trump's trade wars are devastating the very voters he needs most have reportedly infuriated the White House.

Worse, two researchers reported last year that the Republican tax cuts would benefit mostly the wealthiest farmers. This shouldn't come as a surprise -- the entire point of the tax plan was to bestow a deficit-funded windfall upon the rich while tossing crumbs to the middle class -- but having that reality voiced by the administration's own experts had to sting. …

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