Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do. He sold his soul when he threw his support behind Donald Trump during the campaign, and now his constituents are being asked to pay the bill. Literally.
Despite being warned by just about everyone who knows anything about trade economics not to impose tariffs on our trading partners – particularly our allies in North America and Europe – President Trump followed through anyway.
Experts warned the president that those nations on the receiving end of our tariffs would simply slap retaliatory tariffs of their own in what would amount to an all-out trade war.
Trump didn’t care. He began by threatening tariffs on steel and aluminum imports back in March, and then inexplicably followed through on his threats in mid-June despite furious lobbying by EU and North American heads of state.
And now – surprise surprise – the retaliatory tariffs are coming online, and their scope and scale are becoming clear. Mexico, Canada, and the European Union are hitting industries in the heart of Trump country, most notably the lucrative Bourbon industry based in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky and the surrounding whiskey belt across much of the red-state south.
And this doesn’t even include losses we will incur due to the separate trade war with China, which is affecting an entirely different set of industries that support states Trump carried in 2016.
Mexico has already has imposed tariffs on American whiskey that, “amounted to $13.4 million last year,” according to Sylvan Lane and Vicki Needham at The Hill. That’s not all. Lane and Needham also reported that “starting July 1, Canada will impose a 10 percent tariff on all U.S. whiskey products, valued at $48.7 million in 2017.”
“…despite pressure at home to fight back against the tariffs targeting an industry synonymous with Kentucky, McConnell has not spoken out forcefully against the administration’s trade strategy, beyond saying in a speech in Louisville earlier this month that Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs ‘will not be good for the economy.’ “
Distilleries in Kentucky support 31,000 direct or indirect jobs, and exports exceed $450 million, according to the latest figures available. About $200 million worth of those exports land in Europe. At least they did.
Sen. McConnell has offered token objections to the president’s trade wars, but mostly in the form of statements that oppose tariffs in general. He has yet to call on the president to reverse course, and he blocked an effort by his own party to impose congressional curbs on Trump’s ability to impose new tariffs on national security grounds, as the president did this time.
His constituents are quickly running out of patience. Eric Gregory, the President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, warned that the damage caused by Trump’s trade war will extend beyond bourbon makers.
“An extended trade war would not only harm our iconic industry, but also Kentucky’s farm families, cooperages, glass and other suppliers, hospitality and tourism partners, and ultimately, our loyal consumers through higher prices and limited availability,” he said in an interview.
Trump is unlikely to listen. Just this week, Harley Davidson, another iconic American company near and dear to the hearts of many Trump supporters, announced that they had to move hundreds of good American manufacturing jobs overseas to avoid the $100 billion in annual losses the Trump’s trade would inflict.
The president lashed out at the motorcycle company soon after their announcement, tweeting that, “they surrendered, they quit!” If that’s the leader that bourbon producers are hoping will see the error in his ways, they’re in for a massive shock.