At the beginning of March, President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum. Countries importing these goods to the United States would pay a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Trump said the tariffs are necessary to protect American industry. However, economists and historians disagree, saying that they will actually end up hurting America more than helping it.

Trump wants tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. But will this actually hurt the American economy?

The idea behind imposing these high tariffs is to protect American steel and aluminum production.

Trump mentioned raising tariffs during the campaign as part of his "America first" economic policy. The logic is that, by imposing tariffs — or taxes — on foreign imports, American businesses are more likely to use American-made steel and aluminum instead. However, American production in these metals is low compared to the foreign competition. In fact, the steel industry employs around 140,000 people while steel-consuming industries employ 6.5 million. Based on volume alone, American steel production can't meet the demand for what American businesses need. And forcing companies to pay a steep tariff to import won't help the economy at all.

If American companies are forced to pay more for raw materials, that cost will certainly be passed down to the consumer. This will ultimately result in a higher cost to purchase goods. Consumers will likely buy less as a result. And companies will be incentivized to lay off workers to offset the cost. All of this actually ends up harming American business, rather than protecting it.

Steel workers could be the hardest hit by the increased tariffs

But all of this isn't just theory or conjecture. We have already seen the negative impacts of increased tariffs on steel.

President George W. Bush enacted import tariffs in 2002. And an independent study from Trade Partnership Worldwide found that higher steel prices cost 200,000 jobs and total lost wages were about $5.5 billion in today's dollars. That's a huge economic impact, just like Trump is boasting…but not in the way he has predicted.

Additionally, this situation could be exacerbated as foreign governments impose their own tariffs on American goods in retaliation. The European Union has compiled a list of U.S. products that would receive additional import taxes, including bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles. All told, this would amount to a 25 percent tariff on $3.5 billion of goods. This would definitely dissuade EU countries from purchasing American products — further worsening the economic situation. If American companies are making less money, they will have less capital to hire and pay employees. This could result in massive layoffs.

With the United States and Europe considering tariffs on imports, this situation echoes of a trade war that took place in the 1930s, just before the Great Depression hit.

The Tariff Act of 1930, also known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff after the bill's co-sponsors, increased nearly 900 import taxes. In response, nations around the world also hiked their tariffs. This resulted in a trade war that was a contributing factor in worsening the Great Depression.

The World Trade Organization was founded in part to prevent another trade war from happening. The goal of the WTO is to promote and facilitate global trade. Part of the agreement in its founding was that all of the participating countries would lower or remove their tariffs to allow more free trade. Today, the WTO serves as a governing body to work out trade disputes between countries and prevent unnecessary tariff hikes. Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs were unilaterally enacted by the United States and forces the rest of the world to respond.

Overall, Trump's reasoning behind imposing new steel and aluminum tariffs doesn't match up with the economic realities. His goal is to promote and support American business, but these tariffs will only ultimately end up harming it.

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.