Originally Published: The Bryan Times Chris Gagin, Team Leader, OperationGrant.org

At the height of World War II, 39 percent of all jobs in America were manufacturing based.  Today, manufacturing jobs make up just nine percent.  From 2000-2016 alone, America lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs due to a combination of automation and global trade.

To win over blue-collar workers (especially non-college educated whites), then-candidate Trump masterfully used this decades-long decline in manufacturing employment to his electoral benefit in 2016.

In places like Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and Michigan, which know all too well the crushing impact of mine closures, steel mill losses, and the shuttering of automotive plants, Trump promised to bring manufacturing jobs back as part of his “America First” policy.

Trump summarized his zero-sum, anti-immigration-infused economic vision in his inaugural address. “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. … We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

Instantly, America’s long-standing policy of free global trade was dead. To which the MAGA faithful said, “It’s about time.”

The “leader of the free world” position has been vacant for almost four years. What a pathetic surrender of leadership.

As an officer in a special operations task force during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I can say first-hand that the Kurds were the foundation of our defeat of Saddam Hussein’s forces in northern Iraq, and years later they remained among the most effective fighters against ISIS in Iraq and Syria alongside U.S. Special Forces. Trump abandoned them to Turkish attack in 2019 without consulting senior military leaders, and even my fellow Green Berets were shelled by Turkish forces.

Trump’s seemingly gleeful verbal attacks on the heads of state of our allies has taken America to a dangerous place it does not want to be. Trump has called Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest and weak.” After Trump’s repeated rants at the UK, the UK’s Secretary of Defense warned, “The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a U.S. coalition is really just not where we are going to be.” And France’s Prime Minister Macron has lamented, “Europe is now the victim of the U.S. abandoning (Ronald Reagan’s) 1987 Nuclear Treaty with Russia”.

But like so much in the Trump era, the reality of America First’s success is at odds with his rhetoric and tweets.

By way of a parallel example, in that same inaugural address, the president also proclaimed, “We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready … to free the Earth from the miseries of disease….”  To this boast, COVID-19 and former Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry might say, “Oops.”

In fairness, the president largely enacted America First policies. While visiting a Whirlpool plant in Clyde last August, he touted his economic promises kept. Trump followed through on pledges to withdraw the United States from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership; remade the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in his own image; labeled China a “currency manipulator” to re-negotiate NAFTA; and imposed protectionist tariffs (that Americans pay) on the goods of many foreign nations, including China, Canada and the EU.

But economic data doesn’t lie. Trump failed to deliver on his biggest promise: to substantially grow manufacturing employment.

According to the independent Politifact, “Manufacturing employment did increase from mid-2017 to early 2019, but at roughly the same pace as it did for most of Obama’s tenure. And for the year between early 2019 and early 2020, manufacturing employment stagnated. And that was before the coronavirus hit; during that yearlong stagnation, the economy was still expanding overall.”

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