Cramer parses the numbers behind Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs

  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer predicts the effects of the recently announced tariffs on key companies in the space.
  • Cramer argues that the tariffs could be more constructive than many market-watchers think.

With much of the market riled up about what President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs mean for U.S. industry, CNBC's Jim Cramer wanted to take a more analytical approach.

"I say let's take a deep breath and look at some actual numbers," the "Mad Money" host said on Friday. "Let's be thoughtful."

First, Cramer examined the trajectory of the biggest U.S. steelmaker, Nucor. An industry innovator, Nucor has been a staple steel play for many investors including Cramer, whose charitable trust owns shares in the company.

But Nucor's story has not been without blemishes; the company has been at fault for missing earnings estimates in the past because of sub-par execution, Cramer said.

"There were also many, many quarters where, because the People's Republic of China wants to create jobs, they build steel mills and they sell the stuff well below cost and it causes our companies to have real issues and, in some cases, just wipes them out," he said.

Cramer explained that China offers companies huge steel subsidies to employ Chinese workers. Profiting from the work is more of a secondary concern, throwing a wrench in the United States' ability to compete, he said.

As a result, U.S. leaders who support free trade have largely chosen to turn the other cheek as cheaper steel flows into the country. The underlying results for Americans, however, are more daunting: cheaper steel means U.S. workers in the steel industry are often ousted, Cramer said.

"Steel mills put a lot of people to work," he said. "The Chinese government put a lot of their own people to work producing way too much steel, which crushed the price to the point where most mills in our country, with the exception of Nucor and a handful of others, simply couldn't survive."

"Pretty much every time Nucor misses numbers, they explain to me that it's because of Chinese dumping," Cramer continued. "What are you supposed to do when your trading partners behave this way, just let it happen?"

That's why Cramer was not as concerned as others when it came to Trump's tariffs. Putting pressure on China, which needs our markets at least as much as we need theirs, could actually encourage it to change its tune.

Moreover, the costs to U.S. consumers would be negligible, the "Mad Money" host argued. The tariffs would translate into $100 per car — a small price to pay in the context of a vehicle that costs thousands of dollars.

Cramer also acknowledged that aircraft manufacturers like Boeing could take a harder hit than others given the volume of aluminum they use in their products.

"It's true that there are some markets at stake," Cramer admitted. "For the longest time, we've had a policy in this country of sacrificing American jobs so we could sell as many diapers and turbines into China as possible. Look, I get it. I like it when Procter or Kimberly or the once-sainted GE make their numbers."

But there were always complex trade-offs like these in play, the "Mad Money" host argued.

Lastly, Cramer noted that trade helped Trump win the 2016 election. Voters decided that companies like Boeing could take cost-related hits if it meant stemming the mass layoffs in the steel industry: from 700,000 employed workers in 1990 to 350,000 today.

"Bottom line? Look, could Trump's decision to fight back on trade cause the stock market to go down? Sure. So could a lot of other things, frankly," Cramer said. "Will we still make money? Newsflash: there's always a bull market somewhere, and I promise to find it just for you."

WATCH: Cramer unpacks Trump tariffs by the numbers

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Nucor and General Electric.

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