We don’t know Kevin Williamson’s full resume but he often refers to his English major math. Yet he has an impressive ability to express economic concepts clearly. Recently, Kevin was at his best on NRO (and, of course, you should read it all):
A trade deficit is nothing like a budget deficit. Each year’s federal budget deficit adds to the total debt owed by the federal government. Trade deficits don’t do that, which is one reason why “trade deficit” is not a very useful term. A trade deficit is just a bookkeeping entry, not a debt that has to be paid. Countries don’t trade — people do. Americans are no more harmed by the trade deficit with Germany than you are by your trade deficit with Kroger [that is a retailer in case you are not in the 34 states they operate in].
To be clear, you are not harmed because you can get better or cheaper stuff from Kroger (and Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc) than you can produce yourself. Kevin gives great details about actual tariffs and goes on to identify the real problems that are produced in a trade war:
[The Donald] now proposes to spend $12 billion to bail out U.S. farmers hurt by his batty trade war. That figure will grow if the trade war continues.
The Donald is way wrong in his trade war because it harms everyone. Elsewhere he has done much to improve economic freedom but he is absolutely wrong here.