President Donald Trump’s economic nationalism is a fundamental part of his populist rhetoric. However, this philosophy has little to do with reality or with the leader’s beliefs.
Trump recently signed two executive orders: One to promote the purchase of U.S. products and another one to prevent the displacement of U.S.-born workers by cheaper foreign labor.
One of the measures focuses on eliminating the “abuse” of exceptions in government purchases that undermine “Buy American” laws. The second asks the executive branch to enforce laws on work visas, particularly the H-1B for specialized workers.
The rally held in Wisconsin had more of a proselytizing than an official character. The tone of the populist message did not match the limited reach of the measures. Not much protection for U.S. workers can be expected from a businessman president and a Congress aligned with the interests of the private sector.
The president lacks any sort of credibility on this issue. As a businessman, Trump used a “Polish brigade” of 200 undocumented contractors to demolish a building to make room for one of his towers.
To this day, over 60 people work as gardeners, waitstaff and cooks among others jobs at his Mar-a-Lago resort under H-2B visas. The permit is issued to non-specialized workers.
Trump says that he cannot find U.S.-born personnel to do temporary work. He would surely find it if he paid more for the job. Such is the law of the free market.
The president is asking entrepreneurs to refrain from doing the type of hiring he does at his own companies.
Similarly, the New Yorker used Chinese steel to construct his Chicago and Las Vegas buildings.
“Buy American” laws have existed since the 1930s. Later on, exceptions were created when the cost of producing here was “not reasonable” or went “against the public interest.” Those protections of the taxpayer’s pocket do not necessarily guarantee more jobs.
Before and after Trump’s victory, he said that the controversial Keystone pipeline would be built with U.S. steel. At one single ceremony, he tied up executive orders to resume the pipeline’s construction and to prioritize national products. After that, changes were made, and the project continues to be built with material produced in Canada by a Russian subsidiary.
“Believe what I say, not what I do,” seems to the philosophy Trump is pushing on the people who voted for him hoping that he would protect jobs.