Will Donald Trump’s Booming Economy Go Bust?

The stock market is booming, unemployment is at its lowest since 1969, and consumer confidence is high. “The economy is soooo good,” President Trump claimed. So why are his approval ratings in the toilet? Here’s what lies beneath the numbers.
FE_Jobs_01 Source: Photo-Illustration by Gluekit (Source Images Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty; Caroline Tomlinson/Getty)

Paul Grilli remembered the implosion clearly. It was April 28, 1982, and the Youngstown, Ohio, native stood across from U.S. Steel’s Ohio Works, one of the last massive plants in the city. His father was an unemployed steelworker. The family watched as four blast furnaces collapsed, brought down by dynamite a few years after the facility had been shuttered.

It was the symbolic end of an era. A huge U.S. company had been devastated by Japanese competition. The steel, aluminum and auto industries seemed to be dying. “My father, my uncle, my grandfather, they had all lost jobs. They didn’t know what was going to happen,” recalled Grilli.

Today, Youngstown is a very different place: downsized, less industrial, but not postindustrial. Grilli now delivers aluminum ingots to industrial customers throughout the Midwest, and he has friends who work for a thriving company called Youngstown Tool & Die, the type of Rust Belt firm that, like U.S. Steel, thrived long ago, when the American economy was flush and its manufacturing sector was unchallenged by foreign competition.

But Youngstown Tool & Die, which supplies equipment to aluminum producers to transform metal into a wide variety of products, was also more nimble. It survives to this day, and—right now, in the midst of a booming economy—is flourishing. This past summer, the company announced it would spend $13 million to build a new plant, and in the process would add 57 employees, a 20 percent increase. The expansion plan, said its general manager, Dave Mrdjenovic, was a function of the “very strong economy,” the benefits the company received from the corporate tax cut the Trump administration passed, and a “stable’’ regulatory environment. The company now hopes to expand its sales nationally and begin exporting to Canada and Mexico.

In that sense, Youngstown Tool & Die is a poster child of “Trump-onomics.” Amid the craziness of the Trump era—the whispers about the 25th Amendment being used to remove the president, the ongoing Mueller investigation into alleged Russian collusion, the intensifying trade war with China, the incessant tweets, the erratic, impulsive decision-making—the

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