Trump’s latest move is alarming his own party. With 146,000 jobs in danger just from the new metal tariff and the soaring price of aluminum and steel, Trump’s looming trade war could have devastating consequences.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) characterized the tariffs as “kooky 18th Century protectionism” and said that President Trump’s action will result in rising prices as well as lost jobs for the American people. Other Republicans in Washington were critical as well.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who has pushed the President toward these tariffs, responded to Republican concerns by saying that Trump won the 2016 election.
But even White House officials aren’t all in line behind the idea. For months, there has been a battle in the Oval Office between free marketeers and economic nationalists in the president’s inner circle. Disgraced former staff secretary Rob Porter was a strong opponent to these tariffs, prompting Trump to remark that he didn’t know Porter was “such a globalist.”
Navarro’s victory in the battle over tariffs comes at a time where a White House that has forever been in a state of meltdown reaches even higher instability. Although it was a victory Trump was predisposed toward, according to an Axios report from August.
This tariff could be the beginning of a trade war. China reacted calmly to the new round of economic nationalism from the United States, but made it clear that if Trump pushes a trade war, China will respond. This adds to the 146,000 jobs lost due to soaring metals prices with even more lost to a shrinking overseas consumer base.
It’s not clear if the President even knows that this is the possible outcome. It seems that for Trump tariffs are an end unto themselves, and not a broader strategy. Trump has said “China is laughing at us” and economic nationalism is his way of being taken seriously.
But China might be laughing even louder now.
“If the U.S. abdicates as champion of the international trading system, China may be the only country that can take the reins,” said Georgia State associate political science professor Charles Hankla.
Plummeting jobs, soaring prices and Chinese leadership of global trade are all looming on the horizon thanks to Trump’s economic nationalism. But the first response from the American public comes Tuesday from the heart of steel country, in a special election to fill a Pennsylvanian seat in Congress.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.