President Biden on Monday signed a new executive order that will compel the government to “buy American” more often in the federal procurement process:
Mr. Biden, speaking at the White House, cast the move as a first step in what he and his administration have promised will be an aggressive push to steer more federal dollars to American suppliers and to rebuild domestic manufacturing in industries that have dwindled in recent decades.
The order — and the push to bolster American manufacturing — mirrors several Buy American directives issued by Mr. Biden’s predecessor in the White House, Donald J. Trump. But Mr. Biden and his allies tried to distinguish his efforts from what they called the failed policies of the Trump administration.
“The previous administration did not take it seriously enough. Federal agencies waived the Buy American requirement without much pushback at all,” Mr. Biden said before signing the order. “That is going to change on our watch.” [NY Times]
Ignore the spin from the Biden Administration. The regime media and the corrupt ruling class in Washington will never give President Trump credit for anything, but this order is entirely Trump’s doing. One of Trump’s earliest acts as president was to compel the government to both buy American and hire American in its operations. The president sent the message that the American government exists to benefit Americans, and it set the tone for his entire administration. Now, even the Biden administration can’t walk it back. Instead, they’re forced to argue that they will be even better at implementing the president’s 2016 agenda than he was.
So supporters of the departed president have reason to cheer. But they also shouldn’t be fooled by this. Pursuing a nationalist economic agenda isn’t the same as pursuing a populist one.
At first, the terms “nationalism” and “populism” two may seem similar. After all, “nationalist” and “populist” were two of the most routine labels affixed to President Trump. But while the two are related, they are not the same. Nationalist policies strictly speaking just mean those benefiting America. Populist policies, though, benefit the people. And the truth is that many of America’s most powerful domestic companies are actively harmful to ordinary American people.
We’ve seen that sharply just in the past month. China may be an authoritarian country. But Huawei, Tencent, and Alibaba aren’t the biggest corporate threats to American freedom. Instead, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are. Those companies were founded in America, are headquartered in America, and their senior leadership is primarily American. But they are still deeply hostile to the basic rights of Americans. They deplatformed the president of the United States from the Internet, banned thousands of his supporters, and have signaled more and more aggressive tactics to silence dissent from any sector of American society.
And it’s not just Big Tech either. CNN and The New York Times have done far more than any foreign news outlets to vilify and demoralize ordinary Americans as racist, bigoted, or backwards for adhering to traditional American moral and religious values. Hollywood and Netflix aggressively shove left-wing priorities like transgenderism into their films and television programming. In fact, much of the rise in popularity of films and television shows from places like Japan, Korea, and Latin America is precisely because America’s domestic artistic output is so frequently unbearably politicized.
When the left whipped up anti-gun hysteria during the Trump years, it was American companies that stepped in to roll back Americans’ access to firearms. New York-based Citibank barred its retail clients from selling large-capacity magazines or selling guns to those under 21. Walmart stopped selling handguns and handgun ammunition, asked customers to no longer open carry in its stores, and even petitioned Congress to pass more restrictions on bearing arms. PayPal won’t let its customers use the service to buy guns at all.
It’s Starbucks, not any foreign food chain, that has staged the most ridiculous publicity stunts related to America’s fake racism epidemic.
The exact way President Biden’s order will be implemented remains to be seen. But knowing the modern left, one can make some predictions. There will almost certainly be favorable treatment for the left’s preferred industries, with them either getting more exceptions, or simply being favored for contracts in the first place. These companies may be American, but benefit enormously from illegal immigrant or low-wage guest worker labor. They may award contracts based on toxic race and gender preferences rather than ability, or reward the most corrupt, Democrat-aligned unions as opposed to genuinely looking to boost regular workers across the country.
There is nothing populist about bankrolling the same companies that are celebrating and facilitating your own destruction. Going forward, any populist political movement (whether it rises through the Republican Party or something else) must demand an American corporate sector that respects the interests, the rights, and the basic dignity of the American people. Without that, simply making American companies richer is worthless, and Americans would be genuinely better off funding and supporting foreign competitors instead. Americans should be happy that even Democrats feel the need to embrace economic nationalism. But that’s not the same thing as winning the war.
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