In an op-ed published at the Wall Street Journal this Tuesday, former GOP senator Phil Gramm and current GOP Senator Pat Toomey argue that former President Donald Trump's "protectionist agenda" was a major failure, which "reduced economic growth" and played a role in his loss of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin during the 2020 election.
Trump regularly praised himself for imposing tariffs, particularly on China. But according to Gramm and Toomey, his tariffs were ultimately counterproductive.
"Protectionism failed both as economic policy and political strategy," the pair write, adding that post-war protectionism comes from nostalgia for an enduring myth: the "golden age of American manufacturing."
"As Mr. Trump found when he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, the resulting increase in jobs in those industries was small. This shouldn't have come as a surprise: In 1980 it took 10.1 man-hours to produce a ton of steel," Gramm and Toomey write. "Thanks to automation, that was down to 1.5 man-hours a ton in 2017, with some steel makers achieving 0.5. Jobs gained in the steel and aluminum industries after the tariffs were dwarfed by jobs lost in industries that use steel and aluminum in their manufacturing process, not to mention the jobs lost due to foreign trade retaliation."
The pair go on to write that Trump's protectionism even hurt manufacturing in the states it was supposed to help.
"The notion that protectionism could bring back millions of manufacturing jobs and attract a significant number of votes in the industrial states was outdated, as was the trade debate itself."
Read the full op-ed over at The Wall Street Journal.