Give President-elect Trump credit for consistency. In his selections of Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary, Peter Navarro as chairman of the National Trade Council, and Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative, Trump has empowered a protectionist triumvirate to deliver on his provocative campaign promises.
Among the various ahistorical ideas under consideration is an across-the-board tariff of 10 percent on all imports. Exactly what the intended purpose of such a tax would be remains unclear — To achieve trade balance by reducing imports? To dissuade U.S. companies from outsourcing? To encourage foreign companies to invest in the United States? To show the world who’s boss?
Insanity may be too mild a diagnosis.

First of all, as numerous analyses from the Cato Institute have gone into great detail to demonstrate, the U.S. trade deficit is not a problem to fix. It is a reflection of the relative faith that foreigners have in the U.S. economy as a safe and potentially lucrative destination for their savings.
Even though some people are confused by the meaning of the trade deficit, in reality it is a benign statistic — a reflection of many things, but absolutely not the success or failure of trade policy.
In any event, a 10 percent tariff on imports would certainly have the effect of reducing imports. But, with fewer dollars in foreigners’ pockets and retaliatory measures at hand, U.S. exports would decline as well.
The tariff would have a negative impact on overall trade, but no predictable impact on the trade deficit.