As President Donald Trump touted his policies for increasing job numbers and the health of the economy during a campaign-style stop in Ohio last week, some are saying that his trade policies actually have been harmful to the swing state.
While speaking to a crowd of workers at a military factory in Lima, Ohio, the president said that the workers should support him because he increased spending on that base, and it did not close down as a result.
“Well, you better love me; I kept this place open,” Trump said to an applauding crowd. “That I can tell you. They said ‘we’re closing it’ and I said ‘no, you’re not.’”
Trump also presented a chart that seemed to show an increase in manufacturing jobs. The president has frequently said that his policies – including his decision to use tariffs as a bargaining chip – have led to this growth
“It’s all about manufacturing and we’re bringing it back in record numbers,” the president said.
But some free-market groups say that Trump’s trade policies have provided more problems than benefits for Ohio. For example, many people have blamed the rise of steel and aluminum prices on rising tariffs, as well as drops in sales from some farmers. Ohio’s soybean farmers had a 74 percent drop in sales, which is correlated with increased tariffs on China that are preventing sales, according to numbers from the Ohio Department of Development.
Andrew Kidd, an economist at the Buckeye Institute, a free-market, Ohio-based think tank, said in an email that it’s also unclear that Trump’s policies increased the total manufacturing jobs in the state.
Although Ohio lost thousands of manufacturing jobs annually from the start of the 21st century through the Great Recession, Kidd pointed out that jobs in that sector have been rising by about 11,300 annually since 2009 – long before Trump took office. Trump’s numbers have actually been lower than the average both years. In 2017, Ohio added 5,700 manufacturing jobs and in 2018 the state added 10,600 manufacturing jobs.
“While some specific industries might see a benefit from a particular tariff, those same tariffs and other protectionist trade policies create unfair advantages for some industries while hurting others, even within manufacturing,” Kidd said. “So, while one manufacturer may benefit if their product is protected under the tariffs, others do not enjoy the same protections and can experience increased costs due to retaliatory tariffs. And the overall effect on the economy in the long run can be detrimental.”
According to Kidd, it’s also unclear that the military plant stayed open because of Trump.
“While increased spending on Abrams M1 tanks has brought more jobs to the tank plant this year, it is not obvious that this is the sole reason the plant remains open,” he said. “Local officials have worked to keep the plant operational when there were ebbs and flows in U.S. military spending and there are other products manufactured at the plant unrelated to U.S. military spending.”