Everyone knows: Guac is extra. It’s also why avocados were suddenly thrust into the center of a political firestorm on Thursday.
The humble fruit (which, yes, is classified as a single-seeded berry) has become the symbol of the downside of aggressive taxes that the administration of President Donald Trump has reportedly considered on U.S. imports from Mexico.
Pointing to avocados is obviously a gross oversimplification of the absolutely massive consequences of any sort of broad economic action against Mexico.
It’s also, in its own way, the perfect mascot for the time. On a very base level, it’s avocados versus Trump’s wall.
It’s the kind of stark, reductive imagery that can also help an esoteric issue cut through the modern media roar. Trade economics isn’t exactly the most exciting or accessible topic, and discussion of them is usually relegated to academia, business journalism, and the armchair economist fanboys that make up “Finance Twitter.”
Avocados, on the other hand? A populist piece of our culture. U.S. consumption of the green flavor bombs almost quadrupled from 2000 to 2014, according to Haas, which produces just about all the avocados eaten in America. The rise of Chipotle has put guacnow widely recognized as a premium product for its additional feeonto people’s palates across the country. And let’s not even get started on avocado toast.
I can’t wait until people disinterested in politics go to Chipotle and get to hear “would you like to add guac for four dollars more?”
Ruiner of YA (@justinaireland) January 27, 2017
This makes the Avocadopit and allthe perfect lighting rod for Thursday’s news, in which the White House seemed to float (and then immediately walk back) the idea of a significant tax on all goods coming to the U.S. from Mexico. White House press secretary Sean Spicer initially told reporters that a 20% tax was under consideration, then Spicer later said it was just one possibility, and that the president was working with Congress on a broader tax plan.
Trump’s been teasing some sort of aggressive economic action against Mexico for months, as a way of leveling the trade imbalance between the two countries (the two are major trading partners, but the U.S. buys more stuff from Mexico than Mexico buys from the U.S.), as well as being a device to get Mexico to pay for the wall (reasoning that, as far as anyone can tell, is patently wrong).
If this part is boring to you, that’s exactly why avocados are important.
It’s incredibly difficult to communicate the gravity and scale of this situation while also making it relatable. The U.S. auto industry has massive ties to Mexico. So do business in textiles, aerospace, and even medical instruments. Those, however, don’t exactly provide the kind of daily, buttery satisfaction of an avocado.
There also aren’t as many moving parts for people to consider. The notion that Trump’s actions have consequences are easily understood in relation to avocadosas opposed to something like, say, medical instruments. The avocado: a pricey-but-accessible product, that people buy relatively often, with their own money. It’s makes for the kind of price sensitivity people immediately notice changes to, and thus, get them engaged with the greater context of what’s happening around them.
Damn… Avocados are REALLY gonna be expensive now.
meiko (@meiko) January 27, 2017
That kind of direct connection to an issue can be crucial. Trump often pointed to U.S. corporations as having unfairly benefitted from free trade with Mexico by outsourcing jobs to cheaper workers. A tax on anything those jobs produce is meant to make that kind of practice less desirablein turn, making companies more likely to rely on U.S. workers.
Trump’s logic is fine in theory, but also leaves out the basic lesson that the avocado teaches us. If we don’t agree with Mexico that their avocados can be sold here without a tax, prices have to go up. Perhaps most people who care primarily about avocados don’t quite realize that extent of this impact, but the general idea is there.
The ability for the avocado to suddenly become the standout figure of a $295-billion trade relationship echoes why Trump’s message about building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border resonated during his campaigneven when people thought it was just a metaphor. Like trade, immigration can be a dense topic. The Wall cuts through all that. It’s not a stack of paper that will be rewritten dozens of times. It is brick and fence, and it is clear what it is meant for.
Avocados offer that kind of clarity. If you want a wall, you’re going to have to pay a price (because Mexico really isn’t paying for it).