My late father was a lifelong steelworker at J&L Steel’s famed Aliquippa works. Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I was witness to politicians of every stripe too easily accepting the death of the American steel industry, and manufacturing in general. We were told that it was simply the way of the world in the 21st century for American industry to ship jobs off to China and other countries with fewer labor rights, weaker environmental regulations and practically no concept of “human rights.”
The most enthusiastic supporters of this “new normal” told us not to worry, assuring us that we wouldn’t miss those jobs — the backbone of our middle class for a century — once we got all those cheap, foreign-made goods. It didn’t matter that we strangled our own coal and steel industries with unworkable regulations, because we could just import goods from far-flung places.
The underlying message was that there was no point in fighting back and that American industrial decline was irreversible.
Enter Donald Trump. As I campaigned with the president in 2016, I couldn’t help but notice his critics looking down their noses at his promise to bring the American manufacturing sector back to life.
You can almost forgive them for thinking Trump’s vision of a brighter day for American workers was just pandering. When Trump took office in January 2017, hiring for manufacturing was virtually flat.
Amazingly, under Trump, America has experienced a 2½-year manufacturing jobs boom. More Americans are now employed in well-paying manufacturing positions than before the Great Recession. The miracle hasn’t slowed. The latest jobs report continues to show robust manufacturing growth, with manufacturing job creation beating economists’ expectations, adding the most jobs since January.
Obviously, the rebound in American manufacturing didn’t happen magically; it came from Trump following through on his campaign promises — paring back job-killing regulations, cutting taxes on businesses and middle-class taxpayers, and implementing trade policies that protect American workers from foreign trade cheaters.
The steel industry alone has added nearly 5,000 net jobs since the beginning of Trump’s term, many of them right here in Western Pennsylvania.
Even the upper echelons of union leadership have finally noticed that Trump is usurping the Democratic Party’s long-held claim to represent the interests of working Americans.
In a recent meeting with representatives of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, for instance, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka slammed Democrats for supporting anti-worker policies such as NAFTA and the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership.
I don’t believe union bosses are about to reverse 90 years of precedent and suddenly start endorsing Republicans. Nevertheless, what is noteworthy is Trumka’s admonition highlights an inconvenient truth — the Democratic Party no longer has anything of substance to offer America’s industrial workers.
There’s only one national political leader in America today who has followed through on his promises to working men and women, and he’s sitting in the White House. The political establishment laughed at Trump when he promised to revive American manufacturing, but now, less than three years later, it’s clear that Trump, and American workers, are getting the last laugh.