The Atlantic

The Appealing Logic That Underlies Trump’s Economic Ideas

His policies may fail to deliver, but his rhetoric answers a question millions of Americans are asking about a globalized economy: What about me?
Source: Ashlee Espinal / Reuters

For years, whenever people have seen their livelihoods vanish, politicians have told them to “move to opportunity” or to “get more skills and work harder.” Embedded in their message is the assumption that there is no way to stop the market’s force, and that the best people can do is to fight for their tiny share.

President Trump rejects this. For him, the way to create economic prosperity is to “follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American”—a line he has deployed many times with small variations, including in his address before Congress, and that he has echoed in preparing for his visit to Michigan Wednesday to meet with automakers. This is a combination of old-fashioned mercantilism and the bully pulpit: We will put Americans first, and we will do so by shaming and luring companies into building and hiring here. Part of the appeal is Trump’s can-do attitude: Nobody else can save you; I alone can save you.

While Trump’s economic doctrine may fall apart when it comes to the specifics, which in

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min read
The Fraught Effort To Return To The Moon
NASA wants to put people back on the lunar surface in 2024, but it doesn’t have the budget.
The Atlantic4 min read
Can A Film Be A Love Letter To A Country?
New movies from the writer-directors Lulu Wang and Diana Peralta explore complex questions about national belonging and communal responsibility.
The Atlantic5 min readPsychology
When One Person on a Date Is Just There for the Free Food
“I mean, if it’s dinner, I’m not going to say no, so that I don’t have to go home and cook.”