Peter Navarro, the blunt-talking senior trade adviser to President Donald Trump, called me Friday as his boss’ reelection campaign was set to touch down in Harrisburg on Saturday. Here are highlights of our conversation, arranged by subject matter and edited for clarity. My questions and comments are in italics.
Why did the suburbs turn away from Trump in 2018 and vote Democratic?
It is in many ways a reflection of the class warfare we’re seeing. Donald Trump has turned the Republican Party into the party of the working class.
If the Republicans are “working class,” who are the bosses?
We’re up against the four corners of the country. That’s Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the NBA. They all see their fortunes rise with China. There’s too many people in the global elite in this country who want to make a fast and big buck in China, and they don’t care about blue-collar Americans.
You see the NBA athletes, they are elite activists trying to take the high moral ground in the USA, but they just ‘shut up and dribble’ in China.
The president has spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania. Why should people here vote for him?
The first thing is to draw the very clear distinction between the four years of President Trump bringing manufacturing back to Pennsylvania, and the 47 years Joe Biden pushed manufacturing offshore to Mexico and China. In 1994, Biden voted for NAFTA. He voted for including China in the World Trade Organization. Those two decisions led to hemorrhaging of thousands of factories and millions of manufacturing jobs …
Trump said he’d bring back coal, but the mines are still shutting. He said he’d bring back steel, but U.S. Steel is still waiting for your infrastructure plan. Hahnemann University Hospital shut waiting for your health plan. Our colleges are losing students because you cut visas. While economically advancing parts of Pennsylvania are voting Democratic, the declining sections support the president — a historic reversal. Why would a second term be better?
Tax cuts, deregulation, strategic dominance of energy, and fair trade deals, coupled with a stronger emphasis on buy-American/hire-American, plus a dramatic increase in the defense budget — those things propelled this economy to unparalleled prosperity. We had historic low rates of unemployment, including Blacks, Hispanics, veterans, women. That was our game plan.
To defeat the virus, we had to lock down the economy for a period of time, which created the worst, sharpest economic downturn in history.
We’re trying to fight our way back. We are launching a four-vector attack strategy. The heart of it is, “Make it here in the U.S.” Bring home our production.
You’re using the virus to rebuild the economy?
With four vectors: First, personal protective equipment, like goggles and masks. We’re trying to onshore that. We lose some jobs in the hotel industry but we’re picking up some jobs in the PPE industry.
[Second], we’re doing the same thing for testing enzymes, chemicals, peripherals like swabs.
Third, therapeutics. We are trying to make those here and provide some spur to our pharmaceuticals community.
Finally, a massive amount of funds going into vaccine development and delivery, which is going to require significant amounts of manufacturing for needles and injection systems.
Factories, agribusiness, nursing homes say they can’t find reliable American workers. The U.S. birthrate has collapsed. The average Pennsylvanian is now over 40, and the population is aging fast. When will it be time to allow more immigrants again?
We had the unemployment rate down to 3.5%. That’s the first time we saw blue-collar wages and wages for Hispanics and Blacks go up. That’s what we need to have a prosperous and stable society.
You know President Trump put a moratorium on foreign visas to the end of the year. I am not going to worry about opening the door to more immigration until we get unemployment back to 3.5%.
Only 10% of Americans still work in factories. If you help the factory owners and their big investment funds, how does that help everyone else (who have to pay more for made-in-U.S. products)?