Twenty days after his meeting with congressmen, President Trump signed increased tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum into law.
The move was met with mostly derision from the media. “Trump Misleads The Public On Steel Tariffs,” read the headline at Forbes. “Trump steel tariffs may leave these U.S. steelworkers jobless,” wrote Reuters. “The Real Danger of Trump’s Steel and Aluminum Tariffs,” blasted the New Yorker. “U.S. allies see Trump’s steel tariffs as an insult,” wrote the Washington Post.
At the signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Trump was surrounded by steel and aluminum workers who then asked the president to autograph their hardhats. Almost immediately after news spread, citing the tariffs, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel announced it would re-open an idle plant in Granite City, Illinois, and hire 500 new workers.
The city of Danville, Virginia sits in the bellybutton of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a hat-toss over the North Carolina border and about 85 miles northwest of Raleigh. It’s low hill country and Danville straddles the frothy, chocolate-milk waters of the Dan River. Downtown, once a booming trade district, today is a decomposed industrial husk, a tidy cluster of silent rectangles ensnared by broad, ghostly thoroughfares built for a time in the not-so-distant past when people and goods poured in and out of town.Those days are gone, perhaps never to return.
The story of Danville is one echoed in countless communities across the country, a gutted middle class left for dead in the wake of sweeping international trade deals in Washington, applauded by liberal economists and a lockstep media portraying such policies as inevitable, ultimately good, and a win for the American consumer–a narrative usually coupled with condescending and disdainful attitudes toward displaced workers for a perceived inability to sprint ahead with the times.
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