Trump tariff backlash causes panic in rural America as mega jobs losses appear on the horizon

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Victor Leonardi Blondet / Flickr TRADE WAR...
Victor Leonardi Blondet / Flickr

Donald Trump shocked economists and many inside his own administration when he ignored his economic advisors and went with a half-brained pitch from his Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, to impose tariffs on steel. Experts warned it could set off a trade war and sure enough, China punched back:

China has increased tariffs by up to 25 percent on 128 U.S. products, from frozen pork and wine to certain fruits and nuts, escalating a dispute between the world’s biggest economies in response to U.S. duties on imports of aluminum and steel.

The tariffs, which take effect on Monday, were announced late on Sunday by China’s finance ministry and matched a list of possible tariffs on up to $3 billion in U.S. goods published by China on March 23.

Soon after the announcement, an editorial in the widely read Global Times newspaper warned that if the United States had thought China would not retaliate or would only take symbolic countermeasures, it could “say goodbye to that delusion”.

What does that mean for the United States? Bad news, especially in Trump’s solid red rural base. More from the Washington Post:

The Brookings data constitute a granular geographic look at what Trump’s trade war with China might mean. It breaks down the numbers of jobs in the seven industries producing the products targeted by China’s retaliatory actions, which include fresh and dried fruit and nut farming, stainless steel pipes, pork products, modified ethanol, scrap aluminum and wineries.

Bottom line? Many of the heaviest losses will run right through Trump country.

The Brookings analysis — which is based on proprietary EMSI and Bureau of Labor Statistics data — shows that the largest sum of vulnerable jobs is in fruit and nut farming, with the majority concentrated in Trump counties. Most of the jobs in hog and pig farming and pipe production are also concentrated in Trump country. It’s only in wineries where Clinton counties have the most jobs.

CNN’s Erin Burnett spoke to a farmer who said if Trump didn’t reverse the tariff decision, he’d be voting differently in the future:

Iowa isn’t the only state that will be hard hit by Trump’s trade war. As noted in the Washington Post, the impact will be felt in rural communities nationwide.

Muro noted that the job concentrations in California are fruits, vegetables and wineries. The concentrations in the Northwest are tree crops. The concentrations in the Midwest are pipe producers. The concentrations in the South are mostly dried food and scrap aluminum. And the concentrations in the Plains are made up of some agriculture and hog and pig producers. Taken together, the concentrations constitute “an often rural map,” Muro said.

If you thought Trump voters had “economic anxiety” before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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