Donald Trump may be the most un-presidential president. This outsider status is sometimes a benefit, for example, challenging foreign policy assumptions in other aspects. He appointed Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation; with deep maritime connections and family from Taiwan. In other ways, such as Trump’s dismissive references to developing nations, it’s humiliating to any American who has to defend himself in social circles overseas. Yet one thing Americans agree on is that President Trump means what he says, being a man of his word.
He carried through on steel tariffs: In 20th century South Korea and Taiwan, led by slightly authoritarian governments, oversaw development of a middle class. These governments provided a wide social service net to its citizens, as a hedge against communist sympathies. This was reciprocated in the US with workplace safety laws, Medicare, and old-age social security benefits. The difference in competitiveness between the US and East Asia comes down to use of technology and workers’ attitudes. More recently, some nations have opened up their markets while providing little for workers’ rights. I do not understand why first-world nations must compete with the lowest denominator, mainland China and parts of Southeast Asia, in a game refereed by the World Trade Organization.
So with congressional approval to build training ship Empire State VII, Trump becomes the most supportive President to the maritime industry since Richard Nixon. Until Ronald Reagan, shipping companies received generous subsidies to build and operate ships in the United States, and the men and women who sailed the ships could receive free medical care from what are now Veteran’s Administration hospitals. Small stipends in the name of national security- the Maritime Security Program- were restored in 1996.
The Empire State VII will replace an Eisenhower-era, 60-year old steamship once known as the SS Oregon. Pro-Wall Street, free-trading Senator Chuck Schumer admitted that the Academy “churned out talented engineers by the boatload”. Staten Island, Long Island, and parts of Queens, which voted for hometown boy Mr. Trump in 2016, constitute a majority of the SUNY-Maritime student body. Graduates work as steam engineers in New York City’s infrastructure and large buildings- often unionized. Some sail on maintenance-intensive Nixon-era ships in the US Merchant fleet. Deckside graduates work in deep sea jobs, and within New York City’s extensive waterways.