Trump’s “Buy American” Idea Is Decidedly Un-American

The oil industry, which overall has benefited from President Donald Trump’s leadership in the White House, is not happy with his plan to mandate the use of U.S. steel in their projects.

They have a point:

Donald Trump’s allies in the oil industry are warning the president that his bid to boost U.S. steelmakers could backfire against their efforts to achieve his goal of “American energy dominance.”

The intense lobbying effort comes as the Commerce Department faces a Sunday deadline to give the president a plan to require oil and gas pipelines use American-made steel, an idea Trump embraced in the initial days of his presidency. While the U.S. has imposed “Buy American” rules on government purchases for decades, it would be unprecedented to force those obligations on privately funded, commercial projects.

The blueprint from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will set the stage for further protests from the oil industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and developers, including The Williams Companies Inc. and Energy Transfer Partners.

Trump and his allies have cloaked this policy move in the guise of patriotism. After all, what could be more patriotic than buying American-made goods?

The thing is, choosing to buy American-made products may be an act of patriotism. The government mandating the purchase of such goods? That’s decidedly un-American.

The American lifestyle is rooted in the idea that individuals should be able to make choices, as freely as possible, “in the pursuit of happiness.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The American lifestyle is rooted in the idea that individuals should be able to make choices, as freely as possible, “in the pursuit of happiness.” That means you get to choose which kind of television to buy. Which food to eat. Whether to rent or own your home. Or what kind of steel to use in your pipeline project.[/mks_pullquote]

That means you get to choose which kind of television to buy. Which food to eat. Whether to rent or own your home. Or what kind of steel to use in your pipeline project.

Even if it’s steel made somewhere other than America.

Which brings me to another way in which Trump’s idea undermines the fundamental principles of the American way of life.

We believe in competition here in the United States in a big, big way. Whether it’s sports teams or products or even entire businesses, we think success or failure should be a measure of the effort. The level of service. The quality of the product.

What are we telling U.S. steelmakers when we say that their products must be favored over those of foreign competitors simply because they’re American?

Nothing good.

If American steelmakers want pipeline companies to use their products they should find a way to offer the right mix of price and quality to be competitive with the alternatives. I realize that companies operating in other countries, which don’t operate under the same sort of tax regimes or labor laws that we do here in the United States, can often undercut domestic companies on price as a result. I’m even open, in a skeptical sort of way, to implementing trade policy to address those disparities.

But a blanket government mandate to simply buy American products simply because they’re American?

That’s just about one of the least American ideas I’ve heard of.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

Related posts

Top