The New York Times (8/10/19) ran an article this month with a headline saying that the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders faced a major problem: “How to Be Tougher on Trade Than Trump.” Serious readers might have struggled with the idea of getting “tough on trade.” After all, trade is a tool, like a shovel. How is it possible to get tough on a shovel?
While this headline may be especially egregious, it is characteristic of trade coverage that takes an almost entirely Trumpian view of the topic. Trump portrays the issue as one of some countries, most obviously China, benefiting at the expense of the United States. The media take a somewhat different tack on this country versus country story, but they nonetheless embrace the nonsense Trumpian logic.