Trump Hails Carrier's Holiday Gift to Workers

Trump Hails Carrier's Holiday Gift to Workers
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Donald Trump has a phone, a bully pulpit and a gift for fanciful storytelling that collided Thursday to create “the Indianapolis Christmas Carol.”

Against a background of chilled air blowing through Carrier Co. and United Technologies Corp., the December narrative unfolded like this:

An angel who long ago promised to save Carrier’s jobs from exiting to Mexico was watching the evening news last month and was reminded by a sound bite from a Carrier employee in Indianapolis that said angel had made that promise. The angel, just elected president of the United States, was a tad sheepish because, though he had indeed vowed that Carrier wouldn’t leave Indiana, “it was a euphemism,” he explained Thursday, not really meant to be a literal pledge.

Feeling pressured by the “handsome guy,” who on TV showed such deep Hoosier faith in Trump’s powers, the angel got busy with his phone and went to “the top.” He told executive Scrooges responsible for the 1,400 workers in question that their jobs were “really important” and “we have to do something.”

Gradually persuaded, thanks to the angel’s promises --  and lucrative state and federal inducements, plus veiled references about unwelcome “consequences” -- Carrier and its conglomerate parent, United Technologies, decided to stay put at the Indianapolis plant while investing $16 million in making top-of-the-line furnaces there “over the next few years.” The angel hailed the corporate chiefs for their “flexibility.”

The Hoosier Tiny Tims – 1,100 plant workers who may be employed as a result of the deal – “are going to have a great Christmas,” said the smiling angel with the ghostly hair.

“We’re going to have a lot of phone calls made to companies when they say they’re thinking about leaving this country, because they’re not leaving this country,” the incoming president declared as he concluded his tale. “Leaving the country is going to be very, very difficult.”

The event at Carrier’s HVAC plant was a public relations coup for the businessman-turned-politician who understood the power of symbolism and happy endings. Trump, for example, exulted Thursday over his own campaign victories in Indiana during primary and general election contests, while prodding everyone in the audience to feel like winners.

United Technologies’ chairman, Greg Hayes, during brief remarks before Trump spoke, said the Indianapolis Carrier plant will focus on becoming a “center of excellence” for furnace manufacturing. He commended the president-elect and noted how enthused his $56 billion firm and its subsidiaries are about the benefits of anticipated corporate tax reform, and “a more thoughtful approach to regulation.”

Left out of the storytelling: 1,300 company jobs will still move out of Indiana to Mexico, including about 600 Carrier positions and 700 United Technologies jobs located in Huntington, Ind., according to Fortune. Saved were about 800 manufacturing jobs in Indianapolis that since February were slated to move to a new plant in Monterrey, as well as 300 engineering and headquarters positions that were not on the chopping block.

Trump said the federal regulatory relief he envisioned, to be crafted by departments and agencies in the new administration, was perhaps more valued by the company than even his proposed corporate tax cuts. He made no reference to Indiana’s approximately $7 million in new state tax incentives offered to Carrier to sweeten the deal.

Trump’s description of the Carrier agreement centered on the accommodative business climate he predicts can be realized after January 20, with help from a GOP-controlled Congress and ambitions to cut business taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent, coupled with “major, massive cutting of regulations.” He did not touch on United Technologies’ lucrative federal defense contracting, which far eclipses the $65 million in savings it sought to reap with Carrier’s planned move to Mexico.

Trump also reprised his commitment to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, and his campaign vow to impose federal “consequences” on U.S. companies that seek to move operations and jobs abroad as a way to cut costs and maintain competitiveness. Those consequences, he said, could include heavy tariffs on goods coming back across the border.

“We’re not going to have it anymore,” he said, blaming the North American Free Trade Agreement, supported by Republican and Democratic administrations, for creating a “one-lane highway into Mexico” that he said harms America’s economic interests.

The president-elect, who was accompanied by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his vice president-elect, saluted his own wisdom in choosing his running mate. Pence initiated talks with Carrier in March, seeking to keep the company in the state, but without success. On Thursday, Pence credited the turnaround in Carrier’s fortunes to “the leadership of Donald Trump.”

“Everybody loves Mike,” Trump replied. “He’s become something very special.”

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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