Written by: William Keenan
‘America First’ seemingly is the mantra that Donald Trump rode to election in 2016. This anti-interventionist and nationalist position advocated for greater promotion and focus of American business, American citizens, and a reduced American role on the world stage. This position has been advocated for previously, especially by Pat Buchanan during his rise to prominence — however, Trump’s versions of ‘America First’ have damaged America and American interests beyond repair.
Early in his Presidency, Trump began a ‘Trade War’ with rising global power and key trading partner, China. The trade war started by President Trump after he claimed that China stole trade secrets, violated patents, and hacked US companies, which has taken a toll on the US economy. American farmers and companies have fared the worst as pork, soybean, and corn prices have fallen exponentially because China―the world’s leading importer of soybeans―has turned to other countries such as Brazil to trade with at a lower price. To keep up with the tariffs, farmers have needed to raise the prices of their goods in order to turn a profit. Consequently, China has pivoted even further, prioritizing trade with other countries who offer the same goods at what now is a much lower price than comparable American goods. In the automotive sector, General Motors (GM) has closed five North American plants due to the additional cost of $1 billion imposed by the metal tariffs which could potentially lead to price increases of automobiles. GM and other car manufacturers will have to raise prices on cars to account for the rising price of parts, in this case metal. To avoid this, GM has laid off thousands of workers and opened plants in counties that are not currently affected by the US-Chinese trade war, allowing themselves to buy and sell at a normal rate.
Moreover, President Trump’s impulsive Twitter foreign policy recently struck again as he announced, well, — tweeted — that he would be pulling troops from Syria, leaving Kurdish allies as the last line of defense against ISIS and likeminded terrorist organizations. While it is true that ISIS has lost a majority of its territory and soldiers, a move to abandon our allies in the Middle East could lead to problems down the road, which in turn will lead to future administrations needing to deploy more boots on the ground to combat a resurgent ISIS and potentially radicalized Syrians. Leaving Syria will create a power vacuum that other actors, especially Russia, will seek to fill, as they have been eyeing oil and gas fields in ‘useful Syria’ for years. An elongated, costly proxy war could be on the horizon for the US due to this whimsical decision by the Commander-in-Chief which could lead to more US lives lost in the Middle East. It is entirely possible that in addition to the Russians, the Turks will also look to expand their territorial encroachment and begin bombing Kurdish strongholds.
Another costly renege of international agreements was the 2017 Trump decision to leave the Paris Climate Accords. While this decision did not affect many American citizens directly, the indirect repercussions certainly have taken a toll. This high profile departure is part of a broader theme of laissez faire environmental policies and deregulation policies undertaken by the Trump Administration — all of which have directly impacted and affected American citizens. For example, Trump has rolled back a key Obama era environmental policy, the Clean Power Plan. This plan, finalized in 2015, was projected “to add tens of thousands of renewable energy jobs by 2040 in addition to generating up to $54 billion in health and climate benefits, avoiding 90,000 childhood asthma attacks, and avoiding 3,600 premature deaths in 2030 due to reduced air pollution”. Yet, on April 3, 2017, President Trump eliminated the plan. Not only would this plan have added jobs and strengthened the economy, it would have saved and protected American lives. President Trump wants to save short-term jobs in the fossil fuel industry while jeopardizing the health of Americans and eliminating future ‘green jobs’.
In addition to jeopardizing Americans health by rolling back environmental regulations, Trump’s cuts to food programs will also, once again, put Americans last. Earlier this year, President Trump unveiled a proposal that would remove up to 3.1 million Americans from food stamp rolls across the country. Under the proposed rule, the US Department of Agriculture’s SNAP Program would “no longer provide benefits to families solely because they are enrolled in food assistance programs run by the states where they live,” meaning that just because a family qualifies for state benefits, they would not automatically qualify for federal benefits. This proposal would endanger the food security of millions of Americans who depend on federal funds to provide food for their families. Republicans will pivot and claim that SNAP Programs are another example of ‘wasteful government spending’ — but fail to recognize that SNAP costs approximately $68 billion annually which compared to the nearly $600 billion doled out via military spending is nothing. If the US can afford to bomb and invade foreign countries, the least they can do is feed their citizens. Cuts to SNAP benefits will make hardworking Americans hungrier, lead to a tougher time escaping poverty, and disadvantage a significant portion of Americans.
President Trump has repeatedly shown that his actions harm Americans. While this is not a comprehensive list, it is still clear to see that through environmental rollbacks, an ongoing trade war, and a proposed cut to social service service programs he does not put America First — or even prioritize the well-being of the country.