The impact of the president’s tariffs on everything from steel to soybeans is playing out against the backdrop of the midterm elections, with some Republicans trying to make a robust economy central to their case for maintaining control of Congress. In Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and other states, the president’s policies are starting to be felt, especially in industries that have large trading relationships with China.
“I think there’s serious concern about the effects of tariffs on the R.V. industry,” said Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana and one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents this year. His home is nearby. “So many of the components that go into R.V.s are directly affected by these tariffs.”
“It is something that we watch very, very closely having gone through the other side of this when unemployment was 22 percent,” Mr. Donnelly said, referring to the unemployment rate in Elkhart at the peak of the Great Recession.
In Elkhart, a field of R.V.s is as common as corn. An RV Hall of Fame lionizes the industry and its progress from small aluminum trailers to luxury vehicles with the amenities of expensive condominiums. “We like to say we build fun in Elkhart County,” said Mike Yoder, a Republican and an Elkhart County commissioner.
But Mr. Yoder is among those who think the fun could be ebbing. “Everybody in the industry is aware of the negative significance of that,” he said of the tariffs. “We are experiencing a bit of a slowdown in R.V. production, and a number of companies are working four days instead of five to clean up inventory.”
“My personal opinion is this is horrific for the community,” he continued. “This is a really big deal for us. We export a lot of product and import a lot of product. If this whole trade dispute expands much more, it has serious implications, and we will once again lead the country into a recession, without a doubt.”
It's getting bad in Elkhart again. Really bad.
The R.V. industry is forecasting sales of about 500,000 vehicles this
year, about the same as in 2017 after several years of strong, sometimes
double-digit, growth. The tariffs are adding as much as 50 percent to
the price of some materials, and the companies in turn are raising
If the name sounds familiar, it should be. I've been talking about Elkhart since President Obama visited it in 2009
to kick off his stimulus program push. Unemployment skyrocketed here, and then President Obama's policies pushed that unemployment down to 4%
Elkhart County decided Barack Obama took credit for something he had nothing to do with, and promptly voted for Trump. Now of course, they have second thoughts. They have actual
economic anxiety, not just the grudging anger of having to give the nation's first black president credit.
But let's remember what they said in December 2016 here in Elkhart
“He didn’t help us here, but he took credit for what happened,” Chris
Corbin, 47, who works for a dispatch company in Elkhart, told me.
Corbin thinks it will be Trump who improves the economy. “It’s going to
take two terms, but he’ll fix things,” he said.
Trump'll fix things. Right into another recession.
Brandon Stanley owns a bar in Elkhart. He says he’s optimistic that the
economy is improving now that Republicans have regained power, but
emphasizes that there are still a host of economic problems that haven’t
been solved in Elkhart. As for the shrinking unemployment rate in
Elkhart, “they changed how they report unemployment numbers,” he told
me, so they’re not believable.
But the coming recession sure is believable. I bet they'll blame the tariffs on Obama too.
Andi Ermes, 39, offered a number of reasons for disliking Obama. She said Obama didn’t attend the Army-Navy football game, even though other presidents had. Obama has actually attended more Army-Navy games than George H.W. Bush. She said that he had taken too many vacations. He has taken fewer vacation days that George W. Bush. She also said that he refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel. While it is true that Obama did not wear a flag on his lapel at points during the 2007 campaign, it was back on his suit by 2008. Ermes told me the news sources she consumes most are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a local conservative radio show hosted by Casey Hendrickson.
Yeah, about that Carrier plant over in Indy
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ermes sees the biggest signs for hope in the economy in Carrier deal struck by Donald Trump, which will keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S. “He’s not even president yet and already he’s helping the economy,” she said.
, as Nelson Schwartz of the NY Times took a look just last month at it...
Twenty months ago, a freshly elected Donald J. Trump came to Carrier to claim credit for disrupting management’s plans to shut the factory and shift its jobs to Mexico. The plant stayed open, and more than 700 workers kept their positions. The deal dominated the news and became a political Rorschach test: Mr. Trump’s critics saw a minuscule victory, bought with tax credits, but for many of his supporters, the episode was proof that the incoming president would revive Rust Belt fortunes by sheer force of personality.
After three earlier visits, I wanted to know what Carrier workers themselves thought of the outcome, long after Mr. Trump and his media hurricane had moved on. From afar, one might assume the picture is rosy: Indiana has an unemployment rate of just 3.3 percent, and for people without a college degree, few employers offer the kind of salary and benefits that Carrier does. But when I got to Indianapolis in July, I found that the factory Mr. Trump is often credited with saving is plagued by rising absenteeism and low morale.
“People aren’t coming to work, which is sad because we really need these jobs,” said Ms. Hargrove, who has worked at Carrier for 15 years. “They had a chance to prove that staying was good, but this is ruining it for everybody. It’s killing us. It’s pushing us out the door that much sooner.”
What’s ailing Carrier isn’t weak demand. Furnace sales are strong, and managers have increased overtime and even recalled 150 previously laid-off workers. Instead, employees share a looming sense that a factory shutdown is inevitable — that Carrier has merely postponed the closing until a more politically opportune moment.
In some ways, the situation is a metaphor for blue-collar work and life in the United States today. Paychecks are a tad fatter and the economic picture has brightened slightly, but no one feels particularly secure or hopeful.
You know, economic anxiety