In a meeting with important representatives of both the American aluminum and steel industries this past Thursday, March 1, President Trump announced he would be levying harsh tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, some products may see up to a 25% tax tacked on. This announcement came suddenly and even was a surprise for many in the White House. While domestic producers of steel and aluminum were overjoyed at this announcement, many industries and companies that rely on these metals for their products are fearful of the implications this act will have for their respective businesses. Steel buyers such as major car producers and beverage corporations who rely heavily on aluminum saw a dip in their stocks and are apprehensive about the ways in which this legislation will impact their blue-collar workers. Not to mention, reports have recently surfaced that Carl Icahn, a former senior adviser to the president, sold over $30 million in steel stocks just before the tariff was announced. Through promising these tariffs, Trump is aiming to fulfill his campaign promise of America First, through the promotion of American industry. However, in his signature hasty and short-sighted manner, Trump has privileged some blue collar workers at the expense of many more of their peers. All of these factors beg the question as to whether or not Trump is actually, or ever intended to fight for the little guy, America’s working class?
Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum has become a source of worry for domestic metal producers and their clients, but not a communal fear, one that is polarized. Natalie Kitroeff and Ana Swanson write, “the divide between the metal producers and their customers slices directly through Mr. Trump’s blue-collar constituency.” Without thinking through the consequences his actions will have, President Trump has unintentionally acted in a manner that will end up negatively affecting more of his “base” than those who will benefit from the tariff. Monica de Bolle of the Peterson Institute for International Economics argues ,“if the point is to protect American jobs, if the point is to protect small and medium-sized businesses, this is exactly the wrong way to do things.” While the proposed tariff will jeopardize the existence of some medium and small businesses, it will also most likely lead to a reduction of jobs in many large corporations as well. MillerCoors, the beer conglomerate said in a tweet that the tariff will almost certainly force them to reduce their staff. So in pleasing one sector, Trump has significantly wounded the ability for growth in many staple American companies.
Despite three days of very strong pushback, as I write this article on March 4, all signs point to President Trump sticking to his guns and approving the tariff. While this is not the first off-handed or impulsive policy we have seen in the Trump administration (see exhibit A: The Transgender Ban), it begs for greater thought; how does the idea of America first play out in lived experiences? What subset of the American population is actually championed? Legislation is not something that can be created off a whim or expressed in 140 characters, it must be thought out and its impacts analyzed to ensure the safety and ability of American workers and the American economy to prosper. America first must include the needs of as many Americans as possible and should aim to limit the number of workers who will be disadvantaged at the expense of promoting American industry.