Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The old trade model has failed working families. But Trump’s disjointed combination of hardline nationalism and tax incentives for offshoring jobs is no solution. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The old trade model has failed working families. But Trump’s disjointed combination of hardline nationalism and tax incentives for offshoring jobs is no solution. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

For Laid-off Workers, Trump’s Lies About Trade and Jobs Are Hard to Swallow

We need a fresh approach to trade that lifts up workers everywhere—not the CEOs who pit workers and communities against each other for their own personal gain.

Sarah Anderson

 by Inequality.org

At a rally last January in Toledo, Ohio, Donald Trump bragged that he had “100 percent fixed our disastrous trade deals and brought jobs and factories back to the great state of Ohio.” Next door in Michigan, the president claimed he’s “brought back our manufacturing jobs.”

But in the first presidential debate, Trump was so busy bulldozing his opponent and moderator he didn’t even raise the issue until Joe Biden provoked him.

“Ohio had the best year it’s ever had last year,” the president declared. “Michigan had the best year they’ve ever had. Many car companies came in from Germany, from Japan, went to Michigan, went to Ohio and they didn’t come in with you,” he told Biden.

For Chuckie Denison, those boasts are hard to swallow. The Ohio autoworker knows very well that 2019 was not his state’s best year. Denison was one of 14,000 workers who lost their jobs when General Motors shut down four North American plants last year.

new report I co-authored found that Ohio had just 3,700 new jobs in 2019, down from 36,200 in 2016. Michigan’s job growth last year was the lowest in a decade, and at least three major auto plants there have closed under Trump.

Trump “didn’t lift a finger” to stop the layoffs, says Denison. In fact, the president pushed through a tax cut that made it even more lucrative for U.S. corporations to invest abroad. After slashing jobs here, GM announced a multibillion-dollar joint venture in China.

Meanwhile, Trump’s ever-escalating trade war has backfired spectacularly. After the president slapped steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, companies that use those metals faced drastic price increases. And when other countries punched back by jacking up tariffs on U.S. products, our farmers and workers in other industries took the hit.

Given the debacle of the first debate, will the other two scheduled debates even happen? If they do, the moderators should be prepared with a mute button — and some tough questions on trade and jobs.

They should ask Trump: If you’ve brought back manufacturing jobs, why have 1,800 U.S. factories closed under your watch? You told Biden in the first debate that China “ate your lunch,” so why did U.S. firms invest more in that country in 2019 than in 2016?

Biden shouldn’t be left off the hook, of course. He supported some (but not all) of the trade deals that have accelerated offshoring, but he’s committed to a new approach. And moderators should give him the chance to lay out his alternative.

Heartland workers have a lot more in common with their Chinese counterparts than with the CEOs who move their jobs around.

One of the main reasons companies offshore jobs is so they can pay workers less, pollute more and otherwise get around rules they’d face at home. Because of this, heartland workers actually have a lot more in common with their Chinese counterparts than with the CEOs who move their jobs around.

A fresh U.S. trade policy would include strong penalties for corporations that violate labor and environmental rights in any country. This would create a healthier, more level global playing field by lifting up wages and working conditions for workers everywhere.

After losing their GM jobs in Ohio, Chuckie Denison and his fiancé had to sell their “American Dream” house. His fiancé moved hundreds of miles away to work at another GM factory in Tennessee. Now the company is laying off employees there, too.

The old trade model has failed working families. But Trump’s disjointed combination of hardline nationalism and tax incentives for offshoring jobs is no solution.

As we face a tough economic recovery, working people need a trade strategy that is part of a broader plan to create good jobs with public investment in infrastructure, health and social services, and green technologies.

The last thing workers need is more false promises.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

'A Very Serious Threat': CDC Document Warns Delta Variant Is as Contagious as Chickenpox

"People need to understand that we're not crying wolf here," said the CDC director. "It's one of the most transmissible viruses we know about."

Jake Johnson ·


As Biden Refuses to Act, Dems Make Last-Minute Push to Extend Eviction Moratorium

"If the administration won't act to extend the national eviction moratorium that expires on Saturday, we must," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Jake Johnson ·


Poll: Overwhelming Majority of US Voters Want Robust Regulation of Tech Companies

"When it comes to Big Tech's monopoly power and surveillance business model, the public is unified: They want action. They want to see the Big Tech companies broken up and users' privacy protected."

Brett Wilkins ·


228 Republicans Blasted for Brief Urging Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Historic Victory': Bayer to End US Residential Sales of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."

Kenny Stancil ·