The president of the United Auto Workers union (UAW) declared that the “Buy American” movement is back. As well, he praised President Trump for criticizing outsourcing and reiterated his call for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement – a Trump policy promise. Importantly, the UAW backs Democrats at the ballot box almost exclusively. (An internal study showed 59% of its members voted for Hillary Clinton, while only 33% voted for Trump.) This may change in 2020.
As I have stated many times, I believe in free trade. Mr. Trump has been pilloried by both Democrats and Republicans for being so “moronic” to suggest that free trade policies should be abandoned. My reading of his words is that “free trade” is only “free” when it is also “fair trade.” While I still favor “free trade,” I must admit to many times in the past score of years thinking “we just got screwed on that deal.”
In his inaugural address our President said he was instituting a new era of “America First” and today we are seeing a “Buy American” campaign beginning. These are not remotely “new” notions and Mr. Trump’s is far from the first American Presidential administration to push these policies.
[Sources: ‘America First’ Is Not a Threat but a Promise, by Michael Barone; Wikipedia on “Buy American“]
“America First” was the name of a bipartisan organization spearheaded (but not founded) by Charles Lindbergh, one of the most popular and heroic figures of that era. The group was opposed to US entry into World War II (the group disbanded after one year when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor). However, it was one of the largest anti-war organizations in US history with membership peaking at 800.000 and 450 chapters. It boasted some famous members: future president Gerald Ford and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. Future President John F. Kennedy donated $100 along with a note saying, “What you are doing is vital.”
Similarly, “Buy American” was actually passed into law back in 1933 (the Buy American Act) and required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases. Fifty years later another law was passed called the Buy America Act (note the subtle name difference). This law required mass transportation projects funded in any part by the federal government to purchase US made products.
I am not taking a “pro” or “con” position on these issues. Personally, I’d like to see if they gain traction. In such matters I submit to the will of the American people – just as Democrats should submit to the will of the American people when they spoke on November 8, 2016.