Even though I attended University of Iowa College of Business pursuing a degree in Finance and Marketing over 15 years ago, I still remember a professor telling us that if anyone every really wanted to tank the economy and cause a recession the easiest way to do that would be to put a tariff on steel.
Everything produced or manufactured has a relationship to steel. Raising the cost of steel causes the price of EVERYTHING to increase. Even plastic is manufactured in steel equipment with lots of steel parts. Transportation of anything, even plastic, usually involves steel containers and steel boats, planes, or trains. The cost of EVERYTHING really does relate back to the price of steel.
The only people that benefit from a steel tariff are people that already own large steel buildings like Donald Trump. Because the replacement cost of each building goes up immediately as a steel tariff is imposed.
Steel tariffs cause people to invest less in large scale projects as the tariff artificially raises the cost of every component. This decrease in investment in the large scale means there will be less jobs for people that depend on industries such as construction for a living. This decrease in construction of new buildings also means that people that already own large steel buildings can potentially charge more for rent as they now face less competition, due to people not wanting to invest in the American economy. This is just one example as to why United States Presidents are supposed to be divested of their business interests so they don’t act in a self-serving and illegal manner.
New industries that could greatly benefit the economy at large are also prevented from opening in an environment of steel tariffs and high prices in general. Simply put, it makes it harder to make a profit. If investors are concerned about whether they will be able to make a profit they will keep their money on the sidelines and not invest capital in projects that could bring real jobs to real hard working Americans. The few like Donald Trump benefit from such policies as the overwhelming majority of Americans will suffer.