OPINION: Trump is playing to win. Are Republicans?
The establishment defenders of the global status quo are doubling down in their battle against President Donald Trump.
Citing trade and immigration, the Koch Bros. announced their intention to withhold support for Kevin Cramer against Democrat incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota in a key race the GOP seeks to flip in a state Trump won by 36 points.
They might as well save their money. For the one-time elites in the Republican pundit class, think tanks and Super PACs, it must be frustrating to realize their utter impotence to move the needle against Trump with GOP voters who back him by a nearly 9-1 margin.
Much like President Bushes 41 and 43 and failed Republican presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney — who, thanks to their criticism of Trump, have all enjoyed an image rehabilitation from the media and Democrats that once demonized them — the bogeymen Koch Bros. and their agenda of open borders for trade and immigration are aligning with the left.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also investing heavily in an anti-tariff campaign, highlighting as an example the dilemma of craft brewers dealing with duties on aluminum imports in a July 26 post.
One can only wonder where the chamber was in the last decade as China began dumping below market price aluminum in the U.S. to ease the glut of overcapacity it built up as it went from 11 percent of global production in 2000 to more than half just 15 years later.
According to data from the Aluminum Association, “U.S. imports of semi-fabricated aluminum products from China grew 183 percent between 2012 through 2015 before leveling off (in 2016).”
The association notes that, “Eight U.S. based aluminum smelters have either closed or curtailed since 2014 meaning only five smelters are operating in the United States today and only two at full capacity. This represents the lowest level of U.S. production since just after World War II.”
This is the status quo the U.S. Chamber is trying to preserve and which Trump is trying to upend.
Tariffs are a negotiating tool, albeit a blunt one, but Trump was not elected to keep the Koch Bros. or the U.S. Chamber happy.
He promised to disrupt the system and negotiate better deals, and unlike most every other Republican politician who spent cycle after cycle pledging to repeal and replace Obamacare or enforce the border and immigration law, he is keeping those promises.
Of course there will be short-term pain for some sectors, either from retaliatory tariffs on American exports or higher costs for domestic manufacturers who still need steel and aluminum from foreign sources until the decimation of our industries can be reversed through restarting mills or opening new ones.
Another blunt tool wielded by Trump was the $12 billion proposal to aid the the agricultural sector facing those tit-for-tat tariffs as China and Mexico try to hit him in his red state bases.
That drew the ire of our own Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who complained that the Alaskan seafood industry wasn’t included despite its heavy reliance on trade with China that is largely comprised of fish being sent there for processing and then reentering the U.S. or other markets.
The question not being asked is why is it more economic to send product all the way to China for processing before it is sold in the U.S.? That work could and should be done here in Alaska. Copper River Seafoods operates a year-round processing plant in Anchorage that employs nearly 200 people producing fish for Walmart.
Avoiding a trade conflict with China will not answer that question or lead to more value-added processing in Alaska.
Nor does it make sense to abide a system in which we continue to pump hundreds of billions per year into a country that is building militarized islands in the South China Sea, waging cyber warfare and intellectual property theft against us and even threatening our airlines that won’t print its approved version of the map of Taiwan.
What Trump’s agri-bailout signaled to the world is that the U.S. is willing to take a punch in the course of winning the fight. It was also an action that couldn’t legitimately be criticized by other countries given their own subsidies, bailouts and protectionism for favored industries.
As a result, the European Union’s trade representative flew across the pond to Trump’s turf to start negotiating a solution.
Trump worked to find new markets in the EU for products like American soybeans hit by Chinese tariffs.
The Putin puppet is also trying to replace Russia as the dominant energy supplier to Europe.
The American energy sector, now the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, is also feeling the effect of the metal tariffs. The possible impact on the ultimate price of the Alaska LNG Project has been tossed around as well, but at the last board of directors meeting company executives reported they’d identified potential U.S. sources for rolled 42-inch steel pipe.
The demand for U.S. energy isn’t going anywhere even if there are intermediate increases in costs.
Sanctions are about to be reimposed on Iran with the U.S. set to cut off the despotic mullahs’ crude oil cash stream used to export terrorism and crush its people.
Supply is dwindling from the failed socialist state of Venezuela and there are ongoing production disruptions in the failed state of Libya created by former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Trump is presiding over a U.S. economy with a booming energy sector, historically low unemployment, rising wages and soaring consumer confidence.
He’s negotiating from a position of strength with every intention to win while the Washington Generals that make up the GOP establishment and donor classes are trying to throw the game.
At least they’ll have their token Republican talking head slots on MSNBC as a consolation prize.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].