Remember Those Carrier Jobs Trump Saved? Neither Does He.
If you take the time to dig through President Trump’s Twitter profile, you’ll discover a person who puts a lot of stock in television ratings.
That’s no surprise. Donald Trump has lived a very public life; his fame driven upward over the decades by a cultivated image of wealth and luxury, by mentions in New York gossip columns and movie cameos. His brand as a no-nonsense real estate dealmaker was set in stone by years of prime-time exposure on NBC’s “The Apprentice.” This president, as America knows him, was created by the medium of television – and he knows it, too.
Now, ensconced in the Oval Office, the reality-TV president lashes the news cycle furiously, keeping it moving at a breakneck pace. Outrages and anniversaries pass quietly. There is always something new to gawk at. For instance: Few marked the recent one-year anniversary of President-elect Trump’s trip to Indianapolis to celebrate the Carrier deal.
Like most of us, Trump had a visceral reaction to a viral video of a manager, replete with a halting voice, informing a factory floor crowded with manufacturing workers that their jobs making heating equipment were being outsourced from Indiana to Mexico.
Unlike most of us, Trump put it all on himself to fix it. “I’m the only one who knows what’s going on,” he told Breitbart News. This was the Trump presidential pitch, distilled. He’ll save your job. He’ll preserve your way of life. He’ll bring manufacturing jobs back to America. He’ll reverse the country’s towering trade deficits. There are no complex problems to solve, and the answers will be easy.
Just vote Trump.
That’s what he sold to the workers at Carrier and to their communities. That’s what he promised to do when Time magazine named him Person of the Year in 2016.
“I want to get a list of companies that have announced they’re leaving. I can call them myself. Five minutes apiece. They won’t be leaving. OK?”
But either the calls never happened, or the rhetoric has been largely empty. The Carrier deal – for which its Connecticut-based parent company received some $7 million in state incentives to retain some of its Hoosier workforce – was relatively standard as far as incentive packages go.
But it didn’t claw back all the jobs that were to be cut. The most notable aspect of it was how abrupt the about-face was; the company had rejected multiple other cost-saving proposals from the state and the local union in the months before the election.
Trump didn’t save any of the hundreds of jobs at a sister plant an hour’s drive up the road in Huntington. Despite a Trump tweet promising otherwise, his public shaming didn’t stop a ball-bearing plant around the corner – Rexnord – from leaving Indianapolis for Mexico in May.
This exodus reveals a larger problem: There is no coherent trade or manufacturing strategy coming out of the White House. Policies that could shore up American factory employment have not been advanced; the administration has not placed enough emphasis on workforce development, infrastructure, and research while Congress prepares its tax cut.
Those policies directly under his purview – such as the unilateral Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports, or the executive order directing federal agencies to “Buy American, Hire American” – have been sidetracked.
In the absence of strategy, the trade data hasn’t turned around: In 2017, the U.S. is on track for a record bilateral trade deficit with China. Trump couldn't tweet his way to a working industrial policy, the kind necessary to deliver on the promises he made to voters.
Those jobs promises haven’t been forgotten. Resentment among those remaining at the Carrier plant has simmered as the company has continued with the staggered layoffs of the jobs Trump didn’t save. The last of the condemned will be let go just after the New Year. The president, however, is hundreds of news cycles past them. His tweets have moved on to NFL players, criticism of news networks, insults aimed opposition politicians.
There are no mentions of the lost jobs he promised to save.