Politics, Moderate



Don't blame China, Mr. President. Blame the robots.

Catherine Rampell on

Mr. President, if you're looking for someone to demonize for killing blue-collar jobs in your favorite industries, don't blame China and "bad trade deals."

Blame the robots.

Thirty years ago, the U.S. iron and steel mills employed about 188,000 people. Today, that number is about 86,000. Mindful of the suffering of tens of thousands of displaced workers, many of whom voted for him, President Trump is trying to turn back the clock with steel tariffs.

This will do little to help Trump's Forgotten Men and Women.

As others have recounted, there are lots of reasons the Trump administration's recently announced steel tariffs would constitute a colossal economic and national security mistake.

They would benefit a relatively small industry at the expense of many others that use steel as inputs, such as automobile manufacturers.

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They would drive up prices for the American consumers who purchase these products.

They're supposedly designed to punish China, except China is not even among the top 10 sources of steel imports. Instead they will primarily alienate allies such as Canada, the country we import the most steel from. And those allies have threatened to retaliate by slapping tariffs on U.S. exports, which would also hurt lots of American workers.

On net, all of this suggests, the tariffs would create more U.S. losers than winners.

But it's not even clear they'll create many winners in the steel industry itself.


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