Watch: Trump Secretary Wilbur Ross Went to 7-Eleven and Bought Beer and Soup to Defend Tariffs

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended President Donald Trump’s proposed import tax of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum by heading to his local 7-Eleven in Boynton Beach, Florida, and purchasing a can of Campbell’s soup, a Budweiser tallboy and a can of Coca-Cola.

 



Ross displayed the items during a CNBC interview, explaining that tariffs would have a very small impact on the prices consumers will pay. “I just bought this can today at a 7-Eleven, and it’s priced at a $1.99,” he said while holding the can of soup. So, if the price goes up a bit, “who in the world is going to be too bothered?” There are about 2.6 pennies worth of steel in each can, he said, “so if that goes up by 25 percent, that's about six-tenths of one cent on the price on a can of Campbell's soup.”

 

Campbell’s, however, disagreed with the assessment. “Any new broad-based tariffs on imported tin plate steel—an insufficient amount of which is produced in the U.S.—will result in higher prices on one of the safest and more affordable parts of the food supply,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The Beer Institute, a trade group representing American beer producers, noted in a statement that a “10 percent tariff will create a new $347.7 million tax on America’s beverage industry, including brewers and beer importers, and result in the loss of 20,291 American jobs.”

In the midst of his prop-filled tariff defense, the secretary similarly downplayed the effects the increases would have on the auto industry. The amount of steel used on most cars currently amounts to $700, Ross said, so a 25 percent tariff should only add $175 to the price of a new car. When multiplied by the 17 million vehicles sold each year in the United States, that would amount to a $3 billion consumer tax.

Some critics found Ross, who is a billionaire or a multimillionaire, lecturing Americans on the affordability of soup and beer demeaning and out of touch. Others noted that this was contradictory to the argument Republican operatives made when defending their tax bill.

Republicans repeatedly criticized Democrats for not recognizing how significant small paycheck increases could be for struggling families. House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted the story of a "secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year," then deleted the Tweet after facing a backlash.

Ross was a Trump surrogate during the campaign and a key part of the president's plan to fill Washington with business leaders instead of career politicians. The former New York investor long insisted to media outlets that he was a multibillionaire, though recent research has shown that his actual net worth may be closer to $700 million.