There’s sublime irony and then there’s just shooting yourself in the damn foot. The impact of the tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on foreign steel comes closer to the second category, considering that they are directly harming the very U.S. steelmakers they are supposed to help. That’s the analysis from Eric Boehm at Reason, who finds that the economic uncertainty resulting from Trump’s trade wars has produced job losses and lower stock prices in the industry – presumably not the outcomes the administration was hoping for.
- In one example, the Barber Steel Foundry in Michigan just went out of business, with 61 job losses, due to “declining business conditions” per Michigan Live. Over the summer U.S. steel closed two blast furnaces in Gary, Indiana.
- Some of the losses are directly attributable to tariffs: another steelmaker, NLMK Pennsylvania, plans to lay off 80 workers because it was unable to secure an exemption from tariffs.
- The stock prices of big steelmakers don’t lie: between March 2018 and September 2019, as Trump’s tariffs took effect – and the overall S&P 500 rose 6.3% – Nucor’s stock fell 25.5%, Steel Dynamics fell 36.6%, and U.S. Steel a whopping 74.1%.
- In a scathing nutshell: “It is well past time to stop believing that tariffs are going to resurrect or save the American steel industry. Trump has given little more than false hope and faulty economics to the steelworkers and other blue collar employees for whom he’s promised a return to the good old days. The slow decline of American steelmaking cannot be halted or reversed by executive order or presidential tweet. Unfortunately, most of the Democrats running to unseat Trump in 2020 are promising the same sort of protectionism. The beatings, it seems, will have to continue until morale improves.”