Far From Roaring Back, U.S. Manufacturing Has Stalled Under Trump

Far From Roaring Back, U.S. Manufacturing Has Stalled Under Trump
An employee inspects the front end of a General Motors Chevrolet Cruze at Jamestown Industries in Youngstown, Ohio, Nov. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Tony Dejak).

Today is Election Day in the United States, when Americans will render their verdict on the presidency of Donald Trump. When Ronald Reagan was running for president in 1980, he famously asked voters to consider whether they were better off than they had been four years earlier, when his opponent, Jimmy Carter, took office. It appears from polls that many Americans will base their vote on Trump’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But changes to trade policy were a central part of Trump’s campaign to “make America great again,” so it’s fair to ask what Trump has delivered.

Last week, I explored why farmers might not be happy with the president. They have been unwillingly dragged to the forefront of Trump’s trade wars and suffered significant collateral damage along the way. Moreover, just a handful of large farm operations have received the bulk of the billions in taxpayer dollars that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has doled out as compensation for the tariffs over the past three years. Polls show that once-deep red states like Georgia, Iowa and even Texas are in toss-up territory, which suggests some farmers are reconsidering their options.

But what about the manufacturing workers who were supposed to be the principal beneficiaries of Trump’s more aggressive trade policy? Trump needs to hold the red states he won in 2016, but he also needs to replicate the wins he eked out in the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, part of the Democrats’ so-called Blue Wall. If current and former manufacturing workers who felt burned by previous presidents’ trade policies view themselves as better off under Trump, he might pull it off even in the midst of a pandemic. But how many of them are really better off today?

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.