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Trump’s tariffs will slam his voters as they recover from Florence

Rebuilding will be much more expensive for coastal North Carolina, a bastion of Trump supporters.

Flooding from Hurricane Florence is seen in Lumberton, NC on September 17, 2018. CREDIT:  Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Flooding from Hurricane Florence is seen in Lumberton, NC on September 17, 2018. CREDIT: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Trump’s tariffs will make the cost of rebuilding after Hurricane Florence much more expensive — and that will slam his voters hard.

The tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods announced Monday will raise the cost of many materials and products needed for rebuilding homes. At the same time, the parts of the coastal Carolinas hit hardest by Florence voted heavily for Trump.

Take Horry County, for instance, a heavily-populated area in northeast South Carolina that was hit by upwards of 2 feet of rain. It went 67 percent for Trump in 2016.

Coastal North Carolina, which has seen the worst of the flooding, is also Trump country, as can be seen from this map of the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Results of the 2016 presidential election by county. CREDIT: Wikipedia.
Results of the 2016 presidential election by county. CREDIT: Wikipedia.

In addition, the tariffs Trump already applied caused lumber prices to spike earlier this year. And more spikes for essential elements of housing are inevitable following the President’s new tariffs on China.

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For instance, we import about $1 billion a year in plywood from China, which accounted for more than 40 percent of all plywood imports last year.

“People should expect to find it will be more expensive to rebuild and refurnish their houses,” as one trade economist told The Charlotte Observer Monday. “Whenever there’s a natural disaster, there will be spikes in prices, as demand goes up. This time it will be exacerbated by the impacts of tariffs.”

Finally, those living in the Carolinas who are expecting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to somehow rescue them financially in the aftermath of Florence (and the tariffs) may be mistaken.

“Fewer than 10% of households affected by Florence in the Carolinas are likely to have federal flood insurance,” as the actuarial firm Milliman explained on Friday.

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Homeowners typically make this mistake because they think that they aren’t at risk of flooding or that their homeowners policy covers flooding — it rarely does — or that FEMA grants and disaster aid will cover their losses.

But the reality of FEMA is quite different. While the typical flood insurance payment  after Hurricane Harvey was $115,000, the typical FEMA grant to homeowners was a mere $4,300.

So the coastal regions of the Carolinas will get slammed twice — once by Florence and one more time by the President’s tariffs.