This is the first in the series analyzing President-elect Trump’s policies and plans and how they will affect Ohio.
In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the narrative of the white working class propelling President-elect Donald Trump to the White House has emerged as the main driving force behind the Democrats’ loss last Tuesday. While the results were so close that one could point to a number of reasons and make a convincing case as to what led to a Trump win, it’s undeniable that a number of counties across the Rust Belt that were carried by President Obama went for Trump this year.
Trump’s message to these voters during his campaign boiled down to bringing back manufacturing jobs and curbing the outsourcing of jobs by American companies. Trump isn’t the first to make these promises to the region, but his solutions are worth analyzing.
The manufacturing sector of the American labor force has seen a drastic decline since 1990, and this has affected primarily the Rust Belt with its dependency on union-based manufacturing jobs. These jobs were a primary reason why the Rust Belt used to be a Democratic Party stronghold and gave much of the illusion of a “blue wall” moving into this year’s election.
This decline in manufacturing jobs is largely linked to globalization and automation, which are unlikely to be stemmed by any candidate or policy. America’s manufacturing industry is largely underdeveloped when it comes to tackling the hurdles of the 21st century. Companies don’t outsource jobs to China simply because it’s cheaper; they do it because the Chinese manufacturing industry is an incredibly well-managed machine of skilled workers and adaptable factories that is ready to meet the needs of most companies. This is what Apple, a frequent target of Trump, said when Obama asked Steve Jobs why Apple can’t make the iPhone in America.
Trump has also promised to bring back the dying coal industry across Appalachia by cutting regulations, but he has ignored the rapidly decreasing prices of natural gas. While also pledging to ease regulations on fracking, Trump is hurting the already bleeding coal industry, as fracking allows for more natural gas production.
Trump’s final big policy proposal for middle America is a robust infrastructure package that would cost upwards of $1 trillion. Democrats have already expressed interest in working with the president-elect on this issue, but the battle Trump will have to wage is with the Republicans in Congress who have been less than enthusiastic about passing any infrastructure bills under the Obama administration.
Trump’s infrastructure plan could prove to be beneficial to the voters across the Rust Belt that supported him — at least in the short term. Blue-collar workers would flood to the public works projects across the Rust Belt, and some would possibly move south to build a wall, although it’s worth noting that the wall doesn’t seem to be in Trump’s infrastructure plans.
Overall, Trump’s plans are vague and hard to pin down when it comes to middle America. Inside the complex issues facing the region, Trump’s grandiose promises are substituted for concrete policies to reinvigorate the Rust Belt.