A freshman college student can reel off a list of reasons that “buy American” and “hire American” are nonsensical and counterproductive economic notions (e.g. American firms rely on foreign-made component parts; we’d trigger a trade war with such a philosophy). Beyond those obvious flaws, President Trump and his economically illiterate staff seem to forget the role of foreign employers in the United States.

Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute explains that “we don’t hear very much from Trump or others about the jobs that are ‘insourced’ into every US state by foreign companies, even though those insourced jobs totaled more than 6.4 million Americans in 2014 (most recent year available) and represent 5.2 percent of all private sector US jobs” (emphasis in original). He points out: “In other words, the insourcing of production and jobs to the U.S. has a significant and positive impact on our economy, and yet this huge economic stimulus gets almost no attention. All we hear about is the jobs that are allegedly being stolen from us by China and Mexico.”

In addition, as other studies have shown, “$1.2 trillion of foreign direct investment is parked in … U.S. manufacturing, undergirding valued added activity, and supporting jobs and the tax base.” Discouraging or penalizing firms with such resources would undo any increased capital investment obtained by, for example, reforms in the corporate tax code. We want capital from all over the world invested here, including from foreign companies that may build plants, invest in our stock market and provide other economic fuel to increase American wealth.

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If we refuse to buy goods from “foreign companies,” we are helping to put out of work the 6.4 million Americans who work for them. The extent of that workforce boggles the mind:

As a separate state, the $510 billion annual payroll of Americans working for foreign insourcing companies in the U.S. in 2014 would have ranked that group of American employees as the eighth largest U.S. “state” for Personal Income in that year, just behind No. 7 New Jersey at $516 billion and way head of No. 9 Ohio at $489 billion (emphasis in original).

In carrying out their hysterical assault on “globalization,” Trump and Stephen K. Bannon would make the U.S. poorer, spark international conflict and undo an international economic order that has spread prosperity across the globe. “A more enlightened and up-to-date view of international trade would recognize the economic reality that modern businesses today operate in an increasingly globalized marketplace for their inputs, parts, materials, supplies along complex, cross-border supply and value chains that include multiple dozens of countries,” Perry cautions. “In addition, those global companies serve retail markets in hundreds of countries around the globe.”

When the Trump team blithely declares that it wishes to undo international supply chains, it in essence threatens to reverse 70 years of economic growth and prosperity that we and the rest of the world have enjoyed. As Perry explains:

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Just like it makes economic and business sense for thousands of foreign companies to outsource jobs and production from their countries to every U.S. state (perhaps because the U.S. is one of their major retail markets), it also makes economic and business sense for thousands of U.S. companies to outsource jobs and production from the U.S. to foreign countries, perhaps also because overseas markets now represent more than 50% of [retail] sales for many U.S.-based companies like Apple (65% of 2015 sales were in foreign markets), Procter and Gamble (63% sales were overseas), Hewlett-Packard (62% foreign sales) and Pfizer (56% overseas sales). Hopefully, Team Trump can move beyond a simplistic, outdated view of the global economy based on a fixed number of jobs where countries have to fight to “steal” jobs from each other in a zero-sum, win-lose world, to a more advanced and sensible view of a dynamic world of inter-connected, cross-border transactions where production and employment decisions are grounded in the reality of economics, and not politics.

One is struck by how little the Trump team seems to know about the operation of the U.S. economy. Perhaps hiring people who are devoid of public policy experience and who’ve lived their lives in the cocoon of Goldman Sachs finance means they are woefully underprepared to address major economic policy issues. The Bannon/Trump/Navarro worldview endangers the economic health of the United States, the jobs of millions of Americans and the stability of Western democracies. Those hurt the most will be those with the fewest resources and transferable skills — namely, the “forgotten men and women.”

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