Tariffs are essentially a tax on imports. Last year, the U.S. expected to take in about $40.4 billion in customs duties and fees on imported goods. You’re hearing a lot of partisan talk these days about increases in tariffs — especially goods from China. But the truth is, this kind of talk is nothing new. Tariffs in the U.S. have always been politicized. They’re often protectionist or retaliatory. And while it’s easy to argue that higher tariffs often backfire — like during the Great Depression — one can also argue that they’ve been effective at times in protecting U.S. business interests.