Working Americans Are Paying the Price for Trump’s Trade Policies

During his campaign for the presidency, one of Donald Trump’s so-called “populist appeals” was that he was going to throw out trade agreements that were negotiated by previous presidents and start all over again in a way that would “make American great again.” Monday’s news took a sledge hammer to those claims.

Amid criticism from President-elect Donald Trump in January 2017, General Motors announced plans to invest an additional $1 billion in manufacturing in the United States and said it would add or keep 7,000 jobs in the US — a decision it admitted was “years in the making.” Trump thanked the company at the time.

Less than two years later, the automaker said on Monday it would make overhauls that would lead to $6 billion in cost reductions by 2020, including shuttering up to five plants in the US and Canada and slashing 15 percent of its salaried workforce, a total of some 14,700 jobs

The announcement wasn’t necessarily a surprise, because the company this fall offered voluntary buyout packages to about 18,000 salaried workers in North America and said it was taking multiple “proactive steps” to cut costs. Over the summer, it also warned that tariffs under the Trump administration could lead to a “smaller GM.”

When asked about the layoffs, the bully-in-chief took no responsibility and had nothing but threats.

On the same day that announcement was made, this news got a lot less attention.

Farm bankruptcies are on the rise in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest.

Eighty-four farms filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana in the 12 months that ended in June, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. That’s more than double the number over the same period in 2013 and 2014, and the number of bankruptcies in Minnesota doubled over the past four years from eight to 20.

Banks are also seeing more farm borrowers fall behind on their payments, and the worst is likely yet to come.

“Current price levels and the trajectory of the current trends suggest that this trend has not yet seen a peak,” Ron Wirtz, an analyst at the Minneapolis Fed, wrote…

The increase in Chapter 12 filings reflects low prices for corn, soybeans, milk and even beef. The situation for most farmers has worsened since June under retaliatory tariffs that have closed the Chinese market for soybeans and damaged exports of milk and pork.

In summary, auto-workers are losing their jobs and farmers are either declaring bankruptcy or struggling to make loan payments. Meanwhile, Trump was in Mississippi last night campaigning for Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in the senate runoff election and bragging about how good his presidency has been for the economy.

Because the articles I linked to above were written by responsible journalists, they take pains to point out that the challenges facing auto workers and farmers are not simply the result of the president’s trade policies. They both stem from a complex set of issues. But Trump’s trade policies are obviously exacerbating the problem and he seems intent on making things worse.

President Donald Trump appears to be shutting the door on a temporary ceasefire in an ongoing tit-for-tat trade war with China just days ahead of an upcoming summit in Argentina.

The President told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Monday that it was “highly unlikely” he would accept an offer by Chinese leader Xi Jinping aimed at averting Trump’s plan to raise tariffs on more than $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% in January.

He also warned once again he was poised to slap a third round of tariffs on Chinese goods if the two leaders fail to broker an end to the trade rift when they meet later this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue about what life is like for auto workers or farmers and doesn’t care what his trade policies are doing to them. Obviously, the president has some other agenda going on here. It might be that he has simply convinced himself of his own uninformed delusions about trade. But he also has major beef with China that could be business related, because he’s been trash-talking them for over eight years now.

Whatever it is that Trump has against trade agreements, it should be clear to everyone by now that it has nothing to do with a populist appeal to American workers.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .