January 24, 2017

Trump in Transition (v13)

President Trump is opening his administration with a flurry of photo op signings of Executive Orders and memorandums, most of which are not surprising based on what he said he was going to do on Day One, a bigly huge list of things that he was going to solve immediately.

While the 'immediately' thing didn't happen with all of them, he's moving a quick clip as long as staffers and advisers are there to keep him on track and get his mind off his losing the popular vote, or having the biggest Republican Electoral College victory since Ronald Reagan, except for the biggest one since Ronald Reagan which belonged to George H.W. Bush (and which dwarfed the Trump win), or the size of his Inaugural crowd which is the biggest one ever, except that it's not, or millions and millions of 'illegals' voting, which to me is not the same as millions and millions of 'illegal votes' but that might just be splitting hairs.

What he did say today, however, when he signed documents to get things moving again on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline, both of which have been on hold and are now "subject to renegotiation by us" whatever that means, is that things are going to be American.  (Um, as an aside, is 'bigly' bigger than 'XL'? Because if yes, then they really should rename the Keystone thing.)

A memo to the Secretary of Commerce requires an approach to using American steel in pipelines, follows:
The Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with all relevant executive departments and agencies, shall develop a plan under which all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired, or expanded pipelines, inside the borders of the United States, including portions of pipelines, use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law. The Secretary shall submit the plan to the President within 180 days of the date of this memorandum. 
Further, it specifically defines what constitutes made-in-America steel.
 "Produced in the United States" shall mean: (i) with regard to iron or steel products, from the initial melting stage through the application of coatings, occurred in the United States. (ii) Steel or iron material or products manufactured abroad from semi-finished steel or iron from the United States are not "produced in the United States for purposes of this memorandum (iii) Steel or iron material products manufactured in the United States from semi-finished steel or iron of foreign origin are not "produced in the United States" for purposes of the memorandum.
I have no concerns with requiring American made steel on projects - great idea! I'm not sure how many companies in the US can meet the requirements in the memo, or if they have the capacity to produce enough steel to meet the demand created by this type of order, which I anticipate will also come into play with Trump's infrastructure plans, for example. I suspect if this is a problem, it's one the e steel industry will relish solving.

Also unknown is if only American steel companies -- not the foreign companies that have American subsidiaries, but truly American-owned companies -- will be allowed to participate on pipeline projects and infrastructure projects.

Similarly, it's unknown how far to take the requirement for "equipment" to be made in the US. Does that mean heavy equipment, such as the cranes used to set pipes into place? Does it include the equipment used to weld the sections together? And does it include everything in between? If not, it should.

And are only American workers going to be allowed to work in the plants that are manufacturing the steel and the "equipment" and are only American workers going to be allowed to work on these projects and all of their related components?

Because that would be really taking #BuyAmericanHireAmerican to the fullest extent, right? American-owned companies hiring American workers to build American products used on American projects built by American workers...

The problem with taking this to its logical end - all American, all the time - is that we have American workers working for foreign-owned companies right here on American soil. And I can't tell yet whether that's OK because those are American jobs, or if it's bad because those are foreign companies that drove American companies out of business, even though they're employing American workers. (And yes, as I write this, I can see one of the cats chasing her tail in the other room.)

Another question I have is whether it would be OK to build shiny new American-owned factories, using American labor and American materials, in right-to-work states where the wages are lower and don't provide "good, solid, middle class wages" or if the factories need to be built in the Rust Belt states where unions come into play and drive up the labor costs and product costs and are to blame (according to some) for the mess in American manufacturing today?

Or would it be un-American to dictate where the factories get built in America, as long as they're built somewhere in America, by Americans, and pay some kind of wages to American workers?

Lord, this is going to be confusing.