President Donald Trump is unique among post-NAFTA presidents for rejecting the economic determinism that has dominated U.S. economic policy since 1993. His predecessors took it for granted that, given the exigencies of “free trade,” domestic manufacturing job losses were inevitable. Then they crafted trade policies that fulfilled their own prophecies.
During the signing ceremony for NAFTA’s supplemental agreements, Bill Clinton acknowledged that “some jobs will be lost.” “Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade,” N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, argued in 2004. Some manufacturing jobs “are just not going to come back,” Barack Obama declared during a 2016 Indiana town-hall meeting.
Trump has defied them all, in both word and deed. More manufacturing jobs have been created on Trump’s watch than under any other Republican president since the U.S. government began compiling this statistic in 1939. Trump even topped Democrat Bill Clinton’s record in June of this year—news that was ignored by the media. To borrow from Clinton’s “job score” presented at the 2012 Democratic National Convention: Trump, 348,000; Clinton, 313,000; Obama, minus 192,000; Bush fils, negative 4,543,000.
A key dogma of the economic determinists...