There is so much going on in Trumplandia right now that it’s difficult to keep track. From publicly threatening morning talk show hosts, to establishing a “voter fraud commission” which is more like a voter suppression commission that even deep-red states like Kentucky and Oklahoma are pushing back against, to the first mainstream report of possible collusion between the Trump camp and Russia, it’s been an exhausting 24 hours. This morning brought a new crisis, as Axios reported that “Trump overrules cabinet, plots global trade war.”
In the Roosevelt Room, Trump ignored the advice of people who actually understand these things, and has supposedly decided to begin pushing for up to 20% tariffs on steel and other imports like aluminum, semiconductors, paper, and appliances like washing machines. Per Axios:
One official estimated the sentiment in the room as 22 against and 3 in favor — but since one of the three is named Donald Trump, it was case closed.
Apparently, the idea is to take on China, but like all simplistic Trumpisms, there would be far more collateral damage than just hurting one of Trump’s favorite rhetorical targets. His advisers even warned that the auto industry is “likely to seek a court injunction within hours of any tariffs on steel.” This idea is so unpopular within the GOP, that the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation released a full report on it last September, writing things like:
The U.S. manufacturing and construction industries rely on domestic and foreign steel to create finished products. Tariffs on steel imports limit choices and increase costs for these industries. Those costs are ultimately borne by American consumers and act as a tax on everyday goods made from steel, such as lawn mowers, washing machines, and microwaves.
Foreign Policy published a piece last month, stating that “the math doesn’t work in his favor: For every U.S. steelworker, there are about 60 workers in steel-using industries” (like the auto industry). In short, higher tariffs on steel will likely kill more jobs than Trump is purporting to save.
The issue at the heart of all this is that the global economy is still growing at a snail’s pace, and countries like China are producing steel in mass quantities, further driving its price down. Some in the steel industry are clamoring for more government protection, which is the exact type of behavior that conservatives deride in the clean energy sector—as they state that the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers.
But this move isn’t about saving jobs or making the United States more money. It doesn’t matter that this would almost certainly hurt Canada, Brazil and South Korea (and subsequently, the United States)—the three countries we import most of our steel from—but that Trump and his shrinking base of rabid fanboys get to throw a jab at an invented enemy. Sadly, this fist will likely come back and hit the United States in the face, but that’s what the Trump presidency is all about: destroying the fabric of this country in order to preserve a pathetic manchild’s fragile ego.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.