By Evan Henerson
“A lie,” “hurts the economy,” “empty,” “meaningless,” “protectionist” and – my personal favorite “hooey.”
These are what experts are saying in news outlets throughout the country about the Buy American, Hire American (BA/HA) executive order that President Trump signed.
It sounds great in theory, right. Make the federal government buy more American-made products to protect our nation’s jobs. Protecting “workers like you,” Trump told employees at the Kenosha, Wisconsin headquarters of Snap-On Tools where he was promoting his initiative earlier this week.
Here’s an excerpt of how this looks in executive order-ese:
“Buy American Laws. In order to promote economic and national security and to help stimulate economic growth, create good jobs at decent wages, strengthen our middle class, and support the American manufacturing and defense industrial bases, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to maximize, consistent with law, through terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards and Federal procurements, the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.
(b) Hire American. In order to create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States, and to protect their economic interests, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad, including section 212(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
Sounds good, right? Wave the flags and strike up the band in a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.”
So why are so many people trashing it?
People like campaign adviser Stephen Moore who, according to the Washington Post, said that if BA/HA carries through as Trump envisions it, working families will end up bearing the costs on what is essentially a “hidden tax.”
“Cordoning off the estimated $1.7 trillion U.S. government procurement market to U.S. suppliers would mean higher price tags, fewer projects funded, and fewer people hired,” said a report from the Cato Institute.
The Post’s Jennifer Rubin summed up: “In other words, this is a rotten idea that will hurt the people Trump ostensibly wants to help. Making American companies less competitive — which means they sell less and hire fewer workers — is going to make the plight of the working class a lot worse.”
Because Trump is asking his administrative heads for evaluations over the next 150 days that would fit the BA/HA guidelines, nothing is happening immediately. And plenty of economists are figuring that further study will reveal how flawed the premise of this order actually is. A lot of people think that the tightening of the H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers is problematic, potentially racist and could hurt rather than help American businesses.
The Atlantic consults two economists, one Libertarian, the other a former Bill Clinton economic advisor. Both hate Trump’s plan.
The magazine's Nicholas Clairmont sums up as follows:
“But the core issue remains: Making life too easy for U.S. firms will make life worse, not better, for anyone who participates in the U.S. economy. Many economists believe this, as do leaders in the business community.”
Need an example? Clairmont has one.
“As the CEO of The Trump Organization and its many holdings, Trump doesn’t appear to have made any special attempt to use U.S. suppliers or to hire American workers,” he writes. “To the contrary, when a cheaper foreign option was available to make Trump ties or build Trump Tower, like a savvy businessman, Trump seized it. But as chief executive of the U.S. government, Trump’s ideas about how to pick suppliers are different. What’s changed is that now, he’s not looking to his own bottom line, but at his poll numbers.”
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