Donald Trump speaking Tuesday, April 18th in Kenosha, Wisconsin at Snap-On Inc.
Trumpeting themes of “buy American, hire American” against a backdrop of red-white-and blue wrenches at Snap-On Tool in Kenosha, Wisconsin this week, Donald Trump wanted everyone watching to know how much he is rewarding working-class supporters.
The President told the crowd at Snap-On, (which doesn’t actually have a factory in Kenosha anymore, but still has offices in the traditionally Democratic stronghold, which narrowly voted for Trump) that by casting their ballots for him they “voted to end the theft of American jobs.”
He talked about “Buy American” preferences on federal purchases, curbing the H1-B visa program, and re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But these are empty gestures in gaudy patriotic wrapping.
Most baldly, a strong “buy American” provision for iron and steel to be used in rebuilding American water pipelines was stripped out of legislation last month by Trump’s close ally House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose home district includes Kenosha (Ryan was conveniently absent at a NATO function). Ryan reportedly objected to the stringent “made in America” provisions because they would have excluded favored firms.
Equally meaningless was Trump’s declaration that the Keystone Pipeline would be built with American-made steel. The administration later clarified that the requirement did “not apply to the Keystone project.”
Trump unleashed anti-NAFTA barbs to appeal to his base Rust Belt towns like Kenosha, but America’s corporate class knows also that any real challenges Trump might make would be reined in by the dyed-in-the-wool corporate globalists Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan has declared that NAFTA-style free trade is part of “the soul of the party.”
Similarly, Trump’s attacks on H1-B visa abuses, under which giant firms like Disney exploit foreign-born visa holders at below-market pay, is almost certain to remain intact. Trump’s executive order appears aimed to yield little more than some headlines that will remain toothless without a highly improbable push from congressional Republicans led by Ryan.
The “America First” rhetoric will persist, as will baseless claims about American jobs being saved.
But jobs from Carrier, Rexnord, and Oreo, among others, will continue to stream out of the United States, not slowed a bit by Trump’s rhetoric.