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No, Trump Didn’t Bring Back Jobs From China And Mexico

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

Now that his term finally is over, let's examine Donald Trump's performance on a key promise: reclaiming manufacturing jobs, especially from China and Mexico, to raise U.S. wages.

Evaluation first, then a grade. (Can you guess?)

Our trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, last summer praised several companies that dropped plans to move jobs offshore. The "era of reflexive offshoring is over," he claimed in a New York Times op-ed last May.

Facts show the opposite. Team Trump encouraged offshore manufacturing, not that you'd likely know that from following the news.

In his State of the Union address last year Trump proclaimed a "blue-collar boom." It was fact-free nonsense. It didn't happen, not even before Trump's incompetent and malicious pandemic response threw 10s of millions of people, including many factory workers, onto the unemployment lines.

"Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the promised benefits of the president's $1.9 trillion tax cuts hadn't materialized and manufacturing had fallen into a slump," Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, wrote in a report. "After a brief upturn in 2018, manufacturing had fallen into a slump by the first quarter of 2019."

Factory job losses continued in 2019 as federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data show:

Bring Back Jobs from China and Mexico? Trump couldn't

Our goods trade with Mexico had a negative shortfall of almost $101.4 billion in 2019. That's 60% worse than the $63.3 billion shortfall under the Obama administration in 2016.

Using 2019 as the benchmark avoids pandemic effects. But data on the first three months of 2020, before the pandemic, show our trade deficit with Mexico was exploding, up 21% in one year. That shows the abject failure of Trump's Mexico trade policy measured on his terms.

Job Quality Suffered

Yes, China lost jobs … to Vietnam and other countries with even cheaper labor costs.

Under Trump job stability and quality – pay, fringe benefits, working conditions – suffered.

"Job quality in the U.S. remains tepid," the Coalition for Prosperous America reported this month. The coalition promotes balanced trade deals. Jeff Ferry, the coalition's chief economist and creator of its Job Quality Index, said on Jan. 8 that "restoring the health of our manufacturing sector is the best way to restore prosperity to millions of middle class and struggling Americans."

Trump's 2016 campaign promises about manufacturing jobs raised the hopes of people who worked in the 91,000 American factories that have closed since 1997 under Congressional policies which in some cases subsidized moving jobs offshore.

But the carnage continued. In the two years from 2016 under Obama through 2018 under Trump 1,800 American factories closed.

Overall, we suffered a net loss of more than 91,000 manufacturing plants and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs since 1997. Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared during the Trump administration between 2016 and 2018.

Trump's 2017 tax cut added to those subsidies by enabling American firms to earn untaxed or minimally taxed profits so long as they invest offshore.

Minorities were hardest hit by the loss of factory jobs to China. Economist Robert E. Scott, who tracks trade issues for the Economic Policy Institute, estimated that 958,800 minority factory workers were displaced with wage-related losses of $10,485 per worker – and that was in 2011. Today jobs and pay are worse, not better, for blue-collar minority workers.

Weak Demand

The problem with Trump's promise and the wish for more factory jobs is with the two sources of such manufacturing jobs.

One is the diminished demand for goods, which in turn reduces the demand for workers to make, package, ship and market those goods. The other: Advances in efficiency that reduce the number of workers needed to produce goods.

Demand is weak because 90% of Americans — before the pandemic — were losing ground as the cost of living grew faster than incomes and job security evaporated in one industry after another.

The failure of political leaders in both parties to adapt to the long-running shift from factory jobs that paid well because of union contracts to moving manufacturing work offshore began long before Trump. So did the rise of low-paid unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, which has devastated the finances of most families. Trump promised voters he would reverse these trends.

The bottom 90 percent of Americans had less real income in 2018 than in 1973, the peak year for the share of production jobs in union shops. The 2018 households collected 4% less money than the 1973 households, the equivalent of having no income for the last two weeks of 2018.

Even worse for most Americans, incomes fell under Trump despite his baseless claims of huge income rises, often uncritically repeated in news reports.

In 2018 the nearly 87 million taxpayers making less than $50,000 had to get by on $307 less per household than in 2016, the year before Trump took office, my analysis of the official data shows. The gains were further up the income ladder.

That 57 percent of American households were better off under Obama contradicts Trump's often-repeated claim he created the best economy ever until the pandemic. To be sure there was a lot of income growth but it was largely among the fast-growing ranks of $1 million and up households. Their numbers grew 27 percent in 2019 compared with 2016, IRS data show.

The economic pain for most can be seen in broad economic changes that disfavor manufacturing workers, especially those in the 97,000 factories that have closed since 1997. Overall, manufacturing workers make more than service workers.

Minimum wage for waiters is just $2.13 an hour.

In December the average weekly wage for manufacturing workers was $955, compared with $823 in the service sector. That's an $8,700 annual difference. Factory workers also are more likely to have retirement plans, including the fast-disappearing traditional pension, making their total compensation even greater than the wage data show.

And thanks to former President Bill Clinton and a Tea Party activist, the late Herman Cain, since 1993 the minimum wage for wait staff has been frozen at $2.13 an hour—just $1.18 in today's money. Food server is the fifth most common job in America. Whatever these workers get above that comes from tips —when they have work.

With most workers in the lower-paying service sector, and wages for all but the top 25 percent or so of workers flat to falling for decades, people simply do not have the capacity to buy more manufactured goods. The advent of seven-year zero-interest loans for new cars and trucks doesn't hint at that, it screams demand is weak.

Increased Efficiency, Fewer Jobs

The second factor in shrinking manufacturing jobs is efficiency.

In December, America had 12.3 million manufacturing jobs, the same as in the summer of 1941 just as America entered World War II. Back then America had 204 million fewer people than now.

Factory jobs peaked at 19.5 million in 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president. There were 103 million fewer Americans then.

In 2020 we lost 577,000 manufacturing jobs, a huge toll not just on those workers but on the communities where they are concentrated.

We experienced a net loss of manufacturing plants (establishments) in every year since 1998.

Fewer workers can make more goods because refining manufacturing processes enables owners to use capital rather than labor to make things.

Capital Replaces Labor

Professor Robert Ashford, my colleague at Syracuse University College of Law and an advocate of paying all workers partly with shares of stock, explains how capital replaces labor with a simple story:

A poor young man gets a job hauling sacks of grain across town and out of his meager pay saves enough money to buy a donkey. Now he can carry more grain sacks which means he can save more so he buys a cart for the donkey to pull. With his even greater income, he next buys a truck to haul tons of grain each day. Along the way, labor is performed by capital in the form of a donkey, a cart and a truck.

When steel was first created in India about 3,000 years ago, it took years of labor to create one ton of steel. Today it takes under 40 minutes. The high cost of steel explains why in the ancient world the commanders of conquering armies were far more interested in tribute paid in that durable metal than gold and jewelry. The efficiency of steelmaking today is why the ranks of steelworkers have shriveled, especially in the last half-century.

Similarly, American lumber mills that in the mid-20th Century required hundreds of men now operate with only a dozen or so workers, including front office staff. That was thanks to computerized cranes and saws paired with lasers which measure logs to get the maximum yield in board feet of finished lumber.

The efficiency trend is likely to accelerate, not diminish. Trump's rhetoric about manufacturing jobs is as hollow as proposing a job stimulus by banning earth-moving equipment to create jobs for men wielding shovels. Or demitasse spoons.

A related problem was Trump's intense focus on China. It missed how America's trade imbalance with Vietnam is growing and how rising labor costs in China are causing it to lose factory jobs to Vietnam.

"Vietnam is gaining massive traction into the U.S. manufactured goods business," said the Coalition for a Prosperous America's Kenneth Rapoza. That's because labor is cheaper in Vietnam than in China so even some Chinese firms are shifting production there.

The key trend, Rapoza wrote: "China is slipping in our supply chains, but Mexico and Vietnam are largely taking their place."

So, overall, and considering only the period before the pandemic began, while Trump's rhetoric got him votes from desperate and gullible citizens in 2016, he oversaw fewer factory jobs and less pay for all but highly paid workers. It's the opposite of his promise.

The grade Trump earned on returning manufacturing jobs and raising pay?

F.

'Promises Kept'? Eight Major Pledges That Trump Blew Off

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Donald Trump made hundreds of promises as a candidate about what kind of president he would be. As his final days in office tick down, it is clear that he has broken most of the biggest ones.

Some were silly — like his vows never to call Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "Supreme Leader" ("I'll say, 'Hey baby, how ya doing?'") and never to break his leg in a bicycle race. Others were hyperbolic, like an April 2016 boast that if he won the election, "all of the bad things happening in the U.S. will be rapidly reversed!"

But many of his unkept promises were fundamental actions he had claimed were the reason he should be elected president, things he would do to "Make America Great Again."

Economy

Trump has claimed that he created the greatest economy in history. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a massive economic downturn, the promises Trump made about what he'd do for the country's economy had not been fulfilled.

During a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton not long before Election Day in 2016, Trump claimed that "we're bringing GDP from, really, one percent, which is what it is now, and if she got in, it will be less than zero. But we're bringing it from one percent up to four percent. And I actually think we can go higher than four percent. I think you can go to five percent or six percent."

But under Trump, growth of the country's gross domestic product never reached four percent in any quarter until the third quarter of 2020, and that was due to a partial rebound from a contraction of over 31 percent caused by the pandemic.

Rather than balance the budget and get rid of the national debt "fairly quickly," Trump's policies increased the debt by trillions of dollars, even before the 2020 pandemic relief bills.

His promised massive cuts to taxes paid by middle class Americans also never materialized, nor did the promised funding of massive infrastructure projects.

Health

Dozens of times, Trump made a vague but firm pledge to "immediately" repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, with something "terrific" that would provide health insurance coverage to every American.

Trump never actually revealed this supposed secret plan. Instead, he endorsed what he described as a "mean" congressional repeal legislation proposal that he admitted lacked "heart." The House, then controlled by Republicans, passed a version of the bill, but the effort failed in the Senate.

Trump's pledges to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country and solve the issues of cocaine and heroin abuse also did not come to fruition.

Immigration

Trump's most famous 2016 campaign promise was that he would quickly build a massive wall along the entire southern border between the United States and Mexico, and that Mexico would pay for it. When Mexico refused to pay, Trump diverted billions of dollars appropriated for military families and construction to pay for it.

According to a fact check published by USA Today in September, only five miles of the wall built under the Trump administration are new construction; the rest of the 307 miles U.S. Customs and Border Protection said had been built as of Sept. 1 replaced or reinforcing existing fencing.

Ethics

During his campaign for president, Trump vowed to "drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.," releasing a "Five-Point Plan for Ethics Reform" in government. He said he would completely disentangle himself from his financial holdings and have his kids take them over. He did neither, instead giving policy influence to donors, letting his children simultaneously take key roles in his business and political organizations, profiteering from his position, and running what the nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called the "most unethical presidency" in U.S. history.

He also promised voters, "I will always tell you the truth." As of this September, the Washington Post reported, Trump had made more than 23,000 false or misleading statements while in office.

Focus On The Job

During the 2016 race, Trump claimed that as president he would behave differently than he had as a candidate. "And after I win, I will be so presidential that you won't even recognize me. You'll be falling asleep, you'll be so bored," he said during an interview with reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. He also promised that if he was elected, he would stop tweeting.

"I would rarely leave the White House because there's so much work to be done," he said in 2015. "I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off."

Trump has made hundreds of trips to his own golf resorts and visited his properties on nearly a third the time he's been in office.

Personnel

Trump promised that he would staff his administration with only the "best and most serious people." But he frequently fired his own appointees — sometimes via tweet — and often attacked them for being totally incompetent.

According to a report published by the Brookings Institution, 91% of Trump's "A Team" of positions within the executive office, not including Cabinet members, turned over at least once during his four years in the White House, breaking records for turnover.

Public Safety

Trump told Americans that he would bring an end to violent crime. "The crime rate is through the roof. People can't walk down the street without getting shot. I'll stop that," he said. In his inaugural address, Trump announced an end to crime and poverty in inner cities, saying, "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

While a decrease in violent crime that had been underway for decades mostly continued, the murder rate in many American cities shot up this year, possibly in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, experts speculate. Rather than highlight the incremental improvements, Trump actually made his failure to keep this promise a 2020 campaign talking point and frequently noted the increasing crime rates on his own watch.

Environment

While pushing climate denial, Trump framed himself as an environmentalist committed to "crystal clear, crystal clean" water and fresh air. "I will refocus the EPA on its core mission of ensuring clean air, and clean, safe drinking water for all Americans," he promised.

Instead, his administration rolled back environmental protections and slashed funding for water infrastructure. The level of dangerous particle pollution in the air is basically unchanged since 2016, as the EPA ignores scientists' calls to impose lower limits on the pollutants.

Despite all of these, Trump sought a second term with the slogan "Promises Kept."

"I didn't back down from my promises and I have kept every single one," he claimed in a video shown at the Republican National Convention in August.

With a popular vote defeat by a margin of more than six million votes and a 306-to-232 defeat in the Electoral College in the 2020 election, it does not appear the American people bought it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Foxconn Factory Trump Touted In Wisconsin Is Now ‘Empty Promises And Empty Buildings’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump and his supporters were hoping that a deal with the Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn would create 13,000 new manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin, guaranteeing that he would win the state this election year and convince voters that he made good on his promise to bring new jobs to the Rust Belt. But the Foxconn deal, journalist Josh Dzieza emphasizes in an article for The Verge, has been a flop — and the LCD plant that was promised never materialized. Instead of a manufacturing renaissance, all Wisconsin got were "empty promises and empty buildings," according to The Verge.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.