There is a good argument to be made for so-called “Buy American” initiatives. Done right—as part of a national industrial policy that embraces smart regional development and fair-trade protections—they can play a real role in creating sustainable, long-term prosperity.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump is not doing it right. His combination of crude nationalism and failed conservative economic calculations makes “Buy American” into a bumpersticker slogan on the back of a truck that is hurtling toward the economic low road.
During Tuesday’s swing into the historic Midwestern manufacturing city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Trump restated the promises of his 2016 campaign without really taking action. It was a full-on populist spectacle. The president even brought along White House “strategist” Steve Bannon—the master manipulator of messaging for the Trump campaign who, despite the “palace intrigue” gossip of the moment, remains the populist puppeteer in the Trump White House. The main act was Trump’s signing of a much-heralded “Buy American, Hire American” executive order.
But it was mostly theater. As with Trump’s campaign promises, the executive order is full of loopholes that are designed to protect Wall Street interests and multinational corporations—at the expense of American workers and communities. The biggest of those loopholes involves the fact that dozens of countries currently get waivers that allow them to avoid following “Buy American” policies.
“When he claims to be making major moves but instead tinkers around the edges, Trump deceives voters who trusted him.”
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