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A Battle Over American-Made Products Is Looming

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A Battle Over American-Made Products Is Looming

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank-you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America. He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project (improvements to crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports), and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort: Buy American and hire American.”

That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron- and steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars, so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

So clearly, there’s a battle brewing between the President-elect and the Speaker of the House. This is the President-elect who has repeatedly promised the working-class men and women who elected him that he’d support Buy American provisions in federal law to create jobs for them. And it’s a GOP Speaker who wants to ship taxpayer-financed work overseas and let the working class wait a couple more decades to just possibly feel a tiny pinch of trickle-down from the largesse of filthy rich iron and steel importers. This, also, is a clash between a New York real estate titan who won the presidency and a Wisconsin lawmaker who lost the vice presidency.

By advocating night after night for American Made, President-elect Trump essentially warned Ryan not to strip the Buy-American provisions out of the Water Resources Development Act. But Ryan did it anyway early in December when he got the act from the Senate.

The act contained strong, permanent Buy America language when the Senate sent it over. These provisions are significant because they use tax dollars to create 33 percent more U.S. factory jobs, something that is, again, important to voters, 68 percent of whom told the Mellman Group & North Star Opinion Research in November in a national survey conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that they were worried that the country had lost too many manufacturing jobs.

In addition—and President-elect Trump knows this from the response he gets at his rallies—Buy American policies are very popular. Seventy-four percent of voters say large infrastructure projects financed by taxpayer money should be constructed with American-made materials and American workers. And those who voted for President-elect Trump agree more strongly – 79 percent of them say American-made should be given preference over the lowest bidder.

This is a very big deal to iron and steel producers and workers in the United States. Far too many mills are closed or partially shuttered because of unfairly traded imports, and more than 16,000 steelworkers across this country have been laid off over the past year.

China is the main culprit, but there are others. China produces so much steel now that it has managed to inundate the world with more steel than anyone needs. It is dumping steel on the world market at such low prices that no one can compete. As a result, producers from places as far flung as Mexico, the U.S., Canada, India, the U.K. and Spain are shutting down and throwing workers out of their jobs.

China props up that excess steelmaking capacity with methods that are illegal under the terms of the agreements it entered into to gain access to the World Trade Organization and Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with the United States. If steel is sold domestically, a country can provide steel firms with subsidies like exemptions from utility payments and taxes, interest-free loans and free land. But those free market-warping subsidies violate international trade agreements when the steel is exported. That’s what China is doing. And it’s killing American steel companies and American jobs.

When Ryan eliminated the permanent Buy American provision in the Water Bill, essentially saying it’s fine to import illegally subsidized Chinese iron and steel for taxpayer-financed water projects, he was also saying it is fine to bankrupt American steel companies and destroy American jobs.

If the United States is reduced to buying steel from China to build its military tanks and armor, that’s okay with Ryan, as long as he maintains a great relationship with the lobbyists for the foreign steelmakers. They pushed him hard to drop the Buy American provision through Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington, D.C. lobby and law firm employing Ryan’s predecessor Speaker John Boehner and numerous former top GOP aides.

He got hit with a tweet storm after he chose Chinese jobs over American jobs, though. Buy American supporters and members of the Congressional Steel Caucus began pointing out on Twitter just how good #BuyAmerica is for American jobs and the economy and cited @realDonaldTrump, the President-elect’s Twitter handle on every Tweet, which means his account was alerted.

This came from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown:

.@RealDonaldTrump: Tell @SpeakerRyan to put #BuyAmerica back in Water bill. American tax dollars for American jobs.”

And steelworkers wrote protests on Ryan’s Facebook page and hundreds called Ryan and his anti-American-made congressional crew.

Ryan responded. Sort of. He restored one-year Buy American language to the bill. Nothing like the permanent provisions achieved in other federal laws, but it does keep the jobs for 12 months and the issue alive until President-elect Trump can take on Ryan mano-a-mano on Buy American after the inauguration.

Ryan has made clear his anti-American preference, so this will be a royal rumble. But the Speaker should beware. The last time the President-elect stepped into the ring with a heavyweight, it was with the ring’s owner, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, a former professional wrestler. And McMahon left bald and defeated.

Leo W. Gerard is president of the United Steelworkers union. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. Follow him on Twitter @USWBlogger.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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17 Comments

  1. Jim Samaras December 26, 2016

    Trump will win as usual here. They just don’t get it yet but will very soon. Some need a 4×4 across the forehead I guess

    Reply
    1. I Am Helpy December 26, 2016

      Very perceptive! Indeed, Trump will succeed in sending jobs overseas and people like you (slack-jawed racist yokels) won’t get it – in fact, will deny it’s happening even as it occurs in front of their own eyes.

    2. itsfun December 27, 2016

      Yes he will, just look at what he has won so far. He beat 16 people in the primaries. He beat crooked Hillary. He will get rid of the ridiculous orders of Obama. What the damn fools in Washington don’t realize is that President-elect Trump says out loud what most people are thinking.

      1. I Am Helpy December 27, 2016

        Reminder: you are too stupid to have opinions on any topic.

    3. johninPCFL December 27, 2016

      It’s interesting that Ryan is espousing the classical capitalist idea that the lowest cost components be used (it’s taxpayer money after all), and Agent Orange is claiming the socialist position – government dictated sources and supply no matter the cost.

      Perhaps he’ll take it a step further when the brouhaha starts and dictate the quantities and prices as well?

    4. MediumBarda January 18, 2017

      When is trump going to stop importing workers from other countries? He did it again to staff his vineyard. As of today, he’s still silent on ryan’s shenanigans. I really hope you’re right though. We really need to support blue collar workers more, they and people in the service industry are the lifeblood of our nation and the paul ryans of the world need to get their heads out of their asses and respect that.

  2. FireBaron December 27, 2016

    How in Hell did this guy from a Rust-Belt State win reelection, given his anti-US Worker politics?
    It’s too bad that he cannot be fired by Teflon Donnie. What’s even worse – as the man in charge of the House, he can institute Impeachment Hearings against the Dumpster.
    What to me is the bigger irony is nothing that bears Teflon Donnie’s personal imprimatur is produced in the US by US laborers!

    Reply
    1. Mama Bear December 27, 2016

      in a word…gerrymandering at it’s finest.

      1. dbtheonly December 27, 2016

        And money. Lots of money.

    2. CPANY December 27, 2016

      That’s why Trump is kowtowing to Putin. Trump put a lot of money in Russia and is afraid that Putin will seize it.

      1. I Am Helpy December 27, 2016

        He’s probably more afraid of the blackmail video.

  3. Dr. Samuel Taddesse December 27, 2016

    I agree with Made in America is a great concept as long as the cost is competitive. I also agree with the concept of hire Americans as long as they are qualified to do the job they are hired for. On this I am with Trump.

    Reply
    1. dbtheonly December 27, 2016

      True Doc,

      But we have to insure that this issue gets out to those that need to hear it. Fox, and the rest of the RWMO will bury the story.

      1. robin.dial December 27, 2016

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    2. MediumBarda January 18, 2017

      News flash from the future, the american made provision is still out, Trump is silent about it and he has recently applied for visas to ship workers in from other countries to work at his vineyard, just like he did with his resorts.

  4. Nativegrammy December 27, 2016

    Why in the name of all that is holy, do Republicans like Paul Ryan get away with introducing bills that are clearly written to destroy American workers jobs and American industry like steel, and then profess they “put America first”, how does this keep happening without what should be dire consequences for Paul Ryan, let alone the Republicans who voted for it’s passage???????…..Exactly in what context is this spoiled brat, Ryan putting American workers first??? AND, how can a Trump who uses foreign workers to build his tacky buildings, Chinese steel, has all his little goods made in other countries, ties, furniture, you name it how does this idiot have the gall to talk about buying “American” or producing in America….the hypocrisy is beyond the pale!!!!!! Now, Ryan is counting the days to repeal the ACA, destroy Medicare, along with dreaming to dismantle and destroy Social Security and “privatize” it to every senior and future senior’s fear and loathing, thereby enriching the health care industry and big pharma and enrich Wall Street with beyond huge profits playing Russian Roulette with Americans future retirement funds. All of these invaluable programs affect almost strictly the average and working poor of this country which is the majority of the population!!! Why does everything have to have another greedy hand picking our pockets to make Paul Ryan and his ilk happy with their GD ideology of unlimited profit for the already filthy rich……..The whole point of SS was that politicians could NOT dip their greedy hands into the monies put in the SS fund for any purpose other than what it was created for, which was for the elderly of a certain age, to have some kind of dignity they could count on in their waning years. I guess getting old, which is already fraught with it’s own health and financial woes, will be every Americans extreme nightmare, Social Security benefits cut to a pittance, Medicare completely unviable with a $5,000. voucher that will get you absolutely NOTHING and laughable in the insurance industry!….. “Golden years” will have no meaning, but being filthy rich will be a great place to be and Paul Ryan and the Republicans will make sure the filthy rich are even more filthy rich by Republican “policies” robbing the average American, the majority, to the already bulging pockets of the rich corporations and rich people, because WHY, Republican IDEOLOGY, unbridled greed, the worst kind of results of unregulated capitalism, and in the Republicans view a must of a fat profit at the expense of Americans lives and futures.

    Reply
  5. Jim Samaras December 30, 2016

    Ryans’ days are numbered until he jumps on the Trump train. He will be destroyed like every other “republican” Trump has gone after….thank God

    Reply

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