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6 Reasons Why Trump Is Too Weak To Save American Jobs

Donald J. Trump believes he can bully and bribe companies into keeping jobs in America. Shortly after his election, he “persuaded” Carrier, an Indianapolis division of United Technologies, to refrain from exporting 700 jobs to Mexico. Meanwhile, Rexnord, a maker of bearings and ball bearings also in Indianapolis, announced its decision to move 300 jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Trump, of course, expected that after a tweet or two, Rexnord, a tiny company, would quickly capitulate. Not happening.

The most powerful man in the world is getting a rude awakening about corporate power. Rexnord is thumbing its nose at the president by actually moving every one of those jobs…and the bully-in-chief can’t stop them. Why is that?

1. Trump is trumped by financial strip-mining.

Rexnord is moving for obvious reasons: The new Mexican workers will make $3 an hour while the Indianapolis workers make $25 an hour. But the real motivation for moving stems from Wall Street’s favorite pastime—stripping a company of its wealth through stock buybacks.

To please demanding financiers, Rexnord, in 2015, agreed to buy back $300 million of its own stock. By going into the market to buy its own shares, the price of the stock rises, thereby enriching these hedge fund investors virtually overnight. (Nineteen hedge funds hold about $200 million in Rexnord stock.) The stocks rise because 1) the act of buying large amounts of them in the open market bids up their price; and 2) the company’s total earnings are now spread over fewer shares.

The move to Mexico isn’t just about profits; it’s about financing the stock buybacks.

2. Trump’s deregulation agenda empowers the financial strip-miners.

From the New Deal until 1982, stock buybacks were virtually outlawed. They were considered a dangerous form of stock manipulation—a leading cause of the 1929 Wall Street crash.

During the Reagan administration, stock buybacks were legalized and financial strip-mining took off with a vengeance. Trump’s deregulatory mantra means stock buybacks will continue unabated as will the pressure to move jobs to low-wage areas.

3. Trump ignores (or is clueless) about the massive extent of financial strip-mining.

In 1980, a mere 2 percent of corporate profits went to stock buybacks. By the crash of 2007-’08, more than 75 percent of ALL corporate profits went to buy back the companies’ own shares. Our entire economy is being financially strip-mined by such stock manipulation. (Unfortunately, Trump does not have the attention span to read William Lazonick’s excellent analysis, “Profits Without Prosperity.”)

4. Trump doesn’t dare challenge how CEOs are paid.

Not only do hedge funds profit from financial strip-mining, they are aided and abetted by corporate executives who often derive more than 90 percent of their pay from stock incentives. As a result, CEOs run their companies with only one goal in mind—raise the price of the stock.

With those incentives in place, Rexnord executives could care less about Trump’s tweets. They are moving to Mexico to fund the stock buybacks that enrich the value of their own stock incentives.

5. Trump’s administration is loaded with Goldman Sachs strip-miners.

Trump’s economic advisors, nearly all produced by Wall Street, could care less about Rexnord moving to Mexico. After all, they grew fabulously rich by financing such moves, pressing companies for stock buybacks and profiting from trade deals. Rexnord knows that Trump’s economic team has no interest at all in limiting the stock buyback scam.

6. Trump can bully immigrants but not Wall Street.

It is frightening to see Trump unleash ICE on powerless immigrants, but bend over backward to placate financial elites. A bully attacks the weak and cowers before the powerful.

To repeat, stock buybacks are how Wall Street makes money in a hurry—money that is squeezed out of the workforce by shifting jobs to lower-wage areas. Wall Street will not tolerate any interference in the way it strip-mines companies. And Trump knows it.

Working people will soon know it as well. The Rexnord workers once believed Trump would come to their rescue, especially after he supposedly saved 700 jobs at Carrier just up the road. He didn’t and they no longer do.

Millions more voted for Trump because they believed he would save their jobs from a similar fate. But as financial strip-mining continues unabated, these workers will learn that President Trump is not president of Wall Street. Their jobs will be sacrificed on the altar of stock buybacks. You can’t tweet away financial strip-mining.

Neither Donald Trump, nor even Bernie Sanders, can stop financial strip-mining on their own. It’s a powerful process that has been in motion for nearly 40 years. To reverse the runaway inequality it creates will require nothing short of a dedicated mass movement, the likes of which we haven’t seen for more than a generation.

As historian Michael Merrill points out, there have been four great struggles in American history:

  1. The struggle against royal power which was replaced by the power of a new constitutional democracy.
  2. The battle against slave power which through a civil war was replaced by power of free labor.
  3. The battle against corporate power which was tamed by government regulation and union/worker power on the job.
  4. The fourth great battle is happening right now: It’s the battle against financial power, with the outcome very much in doubt.

These previous victories, always partial with battles still ongoing, were not the result of spontaneous uprisings. They required vision, leadership, education, organization, and mass involvement. Each required a sustained effort over many decades.

Today we need to relearn the art of building mass movements like those created by the abolitionists, the Populists, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement.

To make any progress at all against financial power, we must come out of our issue silos and join together in a common movement. We need to recognize that the financial strip-mining of our society negatively impacts nearly every issue we care about. We need to recognize that the battle against financial power and the runaway inequality it creates, links us together.

Is such a mass effort emerging right now as tens of thousands of people take to the streets and come together in town hall meetings all over the country? Perhaps. But only if these disparate resistance efforts coalesce into a powerful unified movement to take back our country from the power of finance. We have no choice but to try.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute, is currently working with unions and community organizations to build the educational infrastructure for a new anti-Wall Street movement.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump  greets a worker as he tours a Carrier factory with Greg Hayes, CEO of United Technologies (L) in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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IMAGE: Cranes are seen above piles of steel pipes to be exported at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily/File Photo

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IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, U.S. November 4,  2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Trump Claimed He Made $21 Million On NYC Contracts — He Actually Made A Lot Less

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

When he was running for president last May, Donald Trump released 104 pages of details about his finances, including a claim that he earned nearly $21 million through contracts with New York City to run two skating rinks in Central Park and a Bronx golf course.

Much of what Trump asserts remains unverified since he has thus far declined to release his tax returns. But ProPublica obtained the financial records and receipts Trump submitted to New York City for the two leases and they show that he cleared a lot less from those deals, earning no more than half of what he claimed. (Check out the documents.)

Of course, the skating rinks and golf course are but a tiny corner of the Trump financial empire. Still, the records add to the suspicion — originally advanced by Fortune, Forbes and other news organizations — that Trump’s official disclosures exaggerate his accomplishments as a businessman by reporting gross receipts rather than actual profits.

Trump submitted the listing of his financial holdings to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, a requirement for presidential candidates. He reported income from the New York City leases of $20.8 million but did not disclose the expenses he incurred while running those operations.

The Office of Government Ethics reviews financial disclosures for compliance. It doesn’t audit the filings, leaving it up to candidates to decide whether to report gross revenue or net income from their business dealings. Either is allowed on the form, as long it’s clear.

In the disclosure Trump filed, the numbers for the New York leases are listed under “Income Amount.’’ Former government ethics attorneys say that while most previous nominees understood this to require reporting income net of expenses, the requirements are vague enough to allow either interpretation.

“It’s sufficiently ambiguous that, while Trump may meet their reporting requirements, it’s really misleading,” said Virginia Canter, who served as associate counsel for ethics in the Clinton and Obama administrations and ethics adviser for the International Monetary Fund.

Wealthy political candidates and Cabinet picks have reported income with expenses subtracted, repeating the numbers reported on their income tax returns. For example, former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, a Chicago billionaire with sizable real-estate assets, reported on her financial disclosure form that she earned at least $164 million, a figure described as taxable income. Even then, Pritzker had to file an amended form after she understated her income.

The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the president’s income but said in a statement that Trump is “exempt from conflicts” under federal law. (While it is true that the president and vice president are exempt from any criminal penalties resulting from conflicts of interest, that does not preclude the existence of such conflicts.)

New York City documents released to ProPublica in response to a public-records request show that in previous years, Trump spent at least $4.5 million annually on employee salaries, subcontractors, insurance, taxes, and benefits at the skating rinks. Separately, he paid at least $2 million a year to the city in rent in 2015 and 2016.

Trump has yet to report his expenses for 2015 and 2016. But if past experience is a guide, it would appear that he spends about $6.5 million annually on the two rinks.

The financial disclosure form Trump filed covers the period from January 2015 to May 2016. In those months, he disclosed an income of $12.9 million for the two rinks, roughly the same amount as our estimate of his expenses for that period.

We estimated that his expenses for those months were above $12 million, given that most of the skating business takes place in the winter months.

This left Trump with a profit, by our estimate, of several hundred thousand dollars. That’s in line with Trump’s predictions to New York City, which is that he expected to make a profit, after taxes, of less than $500,000 annually.

We found a similar pattern when we looked at the golf course.

There, the Trump Organization projected expenses of more than $4 million a year in 2015 and 2016, including spending on salaries, the pro shop, marketing, and maintenance of the greens.

According to city records, the golf course’s total receipts for 2015 and first five months of 2016 were $8.1 million. That’s roughly what Trump reported as income ($7.9 million) on the federal disclosure forms for that period.

Projecting conservatively, we estimated that Trump spent at least $5 million on expenses in those months — $4 million for the previous year and at least $1 million from January to May, leaving him, at most, a profit of $3 million.

Trump took over operations of Wollman Rink and the smaller Central Park ice rink in 1986 after they had fallen into disrepair. He signed another contract with the Department of Parks and Recreation in November 2001 to manage the rinks for another 10 years and later extended it to last until 2021.

In extending its contract with Trump, city officials described the Trump Organization as an “exemplary concessionaire” and noted that, with the low profit margins at the ice skating rinks, it had “no other viable options” to manage it. The rink has a decidedly Trumpian quality; nearly everything at the rink is emblazoned with the Trump name, from the rental skates and water to the Zamboni.

In 2012, the Trump Organization also signed a 20-year contract to operate the 192-acre golf course in the Bronx. The course is on the site of a former garbage dump redeveloped by the city at a cost of more than $200 million. Trump agreed to fund various improvements and start sharing revenues with the city in 2020; a weekend game of golf costs $172, triple that of other municipal golf courses.

“Generally speaking, golf is a shrinking sport but the city made a promise to the community and that’s what they wanted,” said Adrian Benepe, who was the city’s parks commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg from 2002 to 2012 and who negotiated the Bronx golf course contract. “We kind of felt lucky, given the sport’s declining popularity and that this site was a long-festering wound, an exposed garbage dump.”

Despite pledging to distance himself from his business empire, Trump is still listed as the ultimate owner of the two New York City contracts. To transfer ownership of the contracts, the Trump Organization has to get the written approval of New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.

Any changes in management and operation of the rinks need approval from the commissioner. “Failure to comply with this provision shall cause the immediate termination of this License,” the contracts read.

The Trump Organization has yet to make those changes, city officials said. In response to questions from ProPublica about the management changeover, the Parks and Recreation Department said it is trying to get more information.

In January, Trump said that he would distance himself from his business empire by creating a trust that would oversee his companies. But the trust, run by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a longtime employee, ultimately benefits the president, D.C. licensing documents obtained by ProPublica show.

Al Shaw contributed reporting.

IMAGE: Andy Ihnatko / Flickr