Trump’s Trade War Sent More Jobs Overseas

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Trump's global trade war has not achieved any of his topline, stated goals like creating more jobs or bringing jobs back from overseas, but the war has evidently been an even more impressive failure than you may already think it is.

The trade war hasn't just failed to bring jobs back from overseas, it apparently sent even more jobs packing out of the country. Through June of this year, Labor Department records show that more jobs have been offshored under Trump compared to the same time period under President Obama.

From Bloomberg:

Between Trump’s inauguration day and the end of June this year, the Labor Department certified 1,996 petitions related to companies shifting work overseas. Those petitions covered 184,888 jobs in fields ranging from manufacturing to back-office functions for financial services companies. In other words, offshoring didn’t stop in the Trump administration.

For the equivalent period of President Barack Obama’s second term, the Labor Department actually certified fewer petitions covering fewer jobs. (1,811 petitions affecting 172,336 jobs). Which in theory means 12,552 more jobs left the U.S. in the first three-and-a-half years of the Trump presidency than did in the equivalent period of the presidential term immediately before.

It's staggering when you consider the costs.

For the low price of about $90 billion per year in stealth taxes on imported goods, what do Americans have to show for it exactly? The trade war has been all cost and no reward. More jobs have been offshored under Trump and President Obama didn't even wage a trade war that has cost the average family about $1,200 this year according to the Congressional Budget Office.

If I were a member of Congress tasked with updating existing trade laws to ensure that a future Trump wannabe can't abuse them the way he has, I would require labels on consumer products that clearly display the added cost of tariffs.

I don't believe Trump's war would have lasted as long as it has, or ever been waged in the first place, if it were more clear and obvious to average consumers. Import taxes that get passed down to consumers are nebulous and hidden; they're stealth taxes. Everyone can see what they pay in state, local, or other applicable taxes, but we can't see the hidden cost collected by the U.S. Treasury.

The best thing you could say here is that we're paying our own government, but it's an arbitrary tax imposed by the executive branch. No one voted for it. Not even Congress.

If our empirical, lived reality of Trump's trade war hasn't convinced you that protectionism isn't the answer to 21st century labor and economic stagnation, I don't know what could.

  • muselet

    Unfortunately, offshoring and outsourcing are the reality, regardless of who is president. Capitalism demands that liabilities be minimized, and capitalism (at least as defined by accounting practices) counts people as liabilities*.

    Bloomberg’s reporters know this, but it’s more convenient to blame politicians! than stock analysts who mutter darkly about labor costs.

    Trade wars are always expensive and almost as destructive as shooting wars. The ones Donald Trump started are worse than most, what a surprise.

    And you’re right, protectionism is almost never the correct answer to a trade problem.

    * Yes, I know, that’s not exactly correct. It’s not the people, it’s the unreasonable expenses associated with the people, fripperies like wages (or salaries), insurance, Personal Time Off (because sick leave and vacation are totally the same thing, right?), accounting for taxes and 401Ks—you know, the stuff that companies shouldn’t be burdened with—that are liabilities.