Why Trump’s Promise to Save Manufacturing Was One He Never Intended to Keep

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Jerri-Lynn here. This piece is sound on Trump’s poor manufacturing record, mere electoral bluster that produced no real plan, let alone follow-through. The bit about Biden is too starry-eyed, however. Still worth reading for the extended take-down of Trump.

By Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW). Produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Bob Kemper recalls the hope Donald Trump intentionally stirred in 2016 by pledging to revive manufacturing and keep factories busy producing steel, aluminum and other materials for a major infrastructure overhaul.

Kemper knows that seductive rhetoric won over many Americans, including some of his co-workers at U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes Works in Michigan.

Over the past four years, however, Trump repeatedly showed Kemper’s colleagues and millions of other workers that his vow to save manufacturing was just a con to win the election, not a promise he ever intended to keep.

Trump failed to deliver the manufacturing renaissance that propelled him to the White House and then stood idly by while wave after wave of factory closures devastated the very families who pinned their hopes on him.

Instead of bringing industry back, as he boasted during a visit to Detroit in 2016, Trump turned a blind eye when U.S. Steel announced in 2019 that it would lay off as many as 1,500 workers at its Great Lakes Works site in Ecorse and River Rouge and idle much of the complex because of low demand for steel.

“It was a feint and a lie,” Kemper, grievance chairman for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1299, which represents Great Lakes workers, said of Trump’s pledge. “He told Americans what they wanted to hear. It’s all broken promises.”

On Trump’s watch, hundreds of factories like Great Lakes went dark—and America’s manufacturing sector fell into recession—even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. His botched response to the health crisis further wrecked the economy and forced still more producers of steel, aluminum, paper and other products to cut back or close.

Since Trump took office, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers lost family-sustaining jobs, including more than 16,000 in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in 2019 alone.

The factory closures decimated local communities and further eroded America’s capacity to produce critical goods like face masks for health care workers and supplies for the armed forces, putting the nation’s security at risk.

“Heaven forbid we ever get into a real conflict, and we don’t have the capability to produce our own steel for our military,” Kemper noted.

In 2016, Trump repeatedly touted a massive infrastructure program that would fund urgently needed improvements to the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, locks, dams, ports and drinking water systems.

Infrastructure investment also would have generated surging demand for steel, aluminum, cement and other products, created millions of jobs, and rebuilt a manufacturing sector vital to national security. It would have injected new life into many factories.

Yet even though his Republican cronies controlled both houses of Congress for the first two years of his term, Trump failed to deliver any infrastructure campaign.

“That could have easily been pushed through, but there wasn’t any real motivation to do that,” Kemper said of Trump.

Now, he observed, “all kinds of steel mills are shutting down and going away. This administration has walked us back I don’t know how many years.”

Trump abandoned the very workers he looked in the eyes and swore to help.

During one visit to Ohio in 2017, for example, he told residents living near General Motors’ Lordstown assembly plant not to sell their houses and move away because he intended to rejuvenate manufacturing. But Trump failed to create the jobs he promised and even lost those at Lordstown. General Motors closed the facility in 2019, throwing hundreds out of work.

And in Michigan four years ago, Trump bragged that his election would be a “victory for the wage-earner” that returned millions of unemployed workers to mills and plants. Yet Trump failed to lift a finger when, before the pandemic, Gerdau Special Steel North America announced plans to lay off about 140 workers at its Jackson, Michigan, site.

Although Trump crowed about reviving manufacturing, “there was no plan behind it. There was no substance,” noted USW Local 8339 President Shawn Crowley, who represents the Jackson workers.

That didn’t surprise Crowley at all. He never believed that a callous businessman who serially cheated the contractors and workers he hired for his hotels and casinos would do anything but stiff America’s working families as well.

“I thought it was a joke, and I still think it’s a joke,” Crowley said of Trump’s bluster. “I knew the dude’s record. He screwed over tons of his own workers. That’s his whole MO. Why would I ever think he’d do something better?”

America cannot afford to lose any more production capacity or family-supporting manufacturing jobs.

Unlike Trump, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has both the will to rebuild the manufacturing base and a concrete, detailed blueprint for accomplishing this crucial mission.

His Build Back Better plan prioritizes a major infrastructure campaign—carried out with U.S.-made materials like the steel that Kemper’s colleagues made at Great Lakes—as well as a long-term federal investment in manufacturing facilities and the workers and technology essential to operating them.

Biden’s plan also includes a federal commitment to stockpiling critical goods and strengthening supply chains. That will ensure that America never again runs short of medical equipment during a pandemic and produces all of the supplies essential for military preparedness. And it will enhance the nation’s capacity to build items critical to everyday life, like washers and refrigerators as well as the auto components that USW members made at Gerdau’s Jackson plant.

In addition, the plan calls for stronger labor protections, such as those provided in the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, so that Americans can more easily form unions, fight for decent pay and rebuild manufacturing communities. Workers must have a voice in the workplace, Kemper said, because CEOs care “only about their own pockets and the pockets of their shareholders.”

Many of Kemper’s colleagues struggle to find new jobs providing pay and benefits comparable to what they earned at Great Lakes—a challenge compounded by the COVID-19 downturn.

Dead-end, minimum-wage jobs are all some can find in Trump’s mangled economy.

And Kemper realizes that many more workers will suffer a similar fate unless America takes swift, decisive action to save its manufacturing base.

“There’s no time to waste,” he said. “It should have been started four years ago. It needs to happen right now.”

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47 comments

  1. Altandmain

    Ultimately none of this changes the brutal reality. The US needs a serious industrial policy. A lot of the technologies that we have all around us are not made in North America and the US has lost manufacturing leadership in many fields. Where the manufacturing goes, the innovation follows.

    The US has ceded leadership in a lot of key fields in manufacturing and continues to lose ground. The main driving force seems to be the obsession with quarterly profits, share buybacks, and predatory capitalism. This has led to a focus away from productive investment and in favor of the short term.

    NC has a quite a few good posts for those interested.

    https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/07/time-for-the-west-to-embrace-chinese-industrial-policy-not-eliminate-it.html

    https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/04/become-a-manufacturing-powerhouse-in-2020-an-economic-recipe-for-our-times.html

    Industrial policy is typically most successful in helping a developing nation modernize as demonstrated by the Asian tigers and later China, although only when it is well executed. In many ways though, the US is now a developing nation – it has degenerated, if you will, to a nation with a small wealthy group of rent seekers and a majority that barely gets by.

    I’m more worried that the Establishment will try to use the Trump deception and incompetence as an excuse not to address the core problems facing the US – namely the need to rebuild manufacturing.

    Ultimately though the Establishment is not sincere at all. They will happily sacrifice the well-being of the middle class and working class to add more zeroes to the net worth of the rich. That is the root cause of the problems we face. So too is the professional management class, whose interests are effectively aligned with the super rich and against the rest of society. Unless the bottom 80 to 90 percent reclaim society, nothing will change.

    Reply
    1. rusti

      The US needs a serious industrial policy.

      It seems like the US has had a deliberate and successful industrial policy called “de-industrialization” or “financialization”, which has worked out extremely well for the small fraction of the population who sponsor political campaigns. It’s been so successful that the president of the United Steelworkers Union is on his knees here kissing the ring of a guy who voted for NAFTA and told blue-collar workers to learn programming.

      If the US leadership classes wanted to pursue an industrial policy that involved manufacturing things, the Steelworkers Union would be a real center of power and not degrading themselves hoping for a few table scraps.

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The Establishment worked very hard to destroy manufacturing in this country. That was the purpose of Free Trade Agreements, after all.

      Now that the Establishment has achieved the destruction of manufacturing which it set out to achieve, why would the Establishment turn around and try to rebuild the manufacturing which the Establishment has worked so hard these many decades to destroy?

      And if Biden supports keeping America in the Free Trade Agreements and Organizations, that means that Biden supports keeping American manufacturing destroyed. In which case, whatever he says to the contrary would be a Trumpian promise.

      Reply
  2. cnchal

    At the end of the day, a narcissist will always blame you for believing him, so it’s all your fault all the time.

    Politics attracts narcissist like a flame attracts moths. Last night the news was showing people booing and chanting vote him out when he showed up at Ginsburg’s coffin to put on a show of respect, and behind the mask he was smiling. Love him or hate him, a narcissist does not care as long as he get’s the attention that he craves. The moar outrageous the lie, the better.

    Unfortunately for the United States, the cult of narcissism runs deep. Not wanting to be the center of attention is for losers.

    Enjoy the shit sandwich, because that’s the only meal on offer, either way.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      He may have been smiling for the narrower and more strategic reason that the people booing make good television for him to run against while presenting himself to the people who are not booing as being THEIR friend and supporter.

      He will remind them that ” when they boo me, they are really booing you. So remember, folks, Donald Trump in 2020. Because fuckk the people who boo you. Fuckk them all over again.”

      And that’s why he was smiling.

      Reply
  3. Kasia

    What’s missing is any mention of Hillary Clinton or the Obama/Biden Administrations. Is Bob Kemper ready to admit now that Hillary would have done even less on manufacturing and that much of the cause of our current problems lies with Bill Clinton, Bush II, and Obama/Biden? And so did Bob Kemper and/or the US Steelworkers support Trump in 2016?

    Of course, Trump was gaslighting US voters in 2016 on his big three issues: reindustrialization, anti-immigration, and in rejecting forever wars. But there seems to be a grudging admission here that at least on trade Trump’s gaslighting was the correct policy. Ironically, of the big three, Trump arguably put the most effort in on trade. His anti-immigration efforts were a shamble. Although he didn’t really start any new forever wars, or escalate any current ones, Trump has failed miserably to end any forever wars. Which I suppose is why they are called forever wars!

    Obviously Biden will be a disaster on trade and reopen the offshoring floodgates and end all trade tension with China. Or will he?

    Where are the Neocons on the China Question? With China on a increasingly sharp trajectory to become the global hegemon, how are Neocon global priorities going to be met in a Chinese dominated world? I do not see how Neocons have any leverage on China. Chinese guilt – puh-leeeze! The Chinese are based and steeped in the reality of human existence. Flooding them with Cultural Capitalism in order to undermine their tribal unity is just not going to work on Han supremacist China. What happens to the special needs of Israel if the US collapses and red-pilled China is the new sheriff of the globe?

    Recently Matt Yglesias, a liberal Neocon, came out with a book suggesting that the US take in around 666,666,666 new “Americans” in order to reach the billion population mark so that we can “compete” with China well into the next century. No comment on what this will mean for global warming but a billion man America will definitely be able to protect Israel. What his book demonstrates is growing Neocon neuroticism about China. Will fears of a Chinese planet convince Wall Street elites to allow a reindustrialization of the US?

    Reply
    1. Lee

      I heard an extensive radio interview with Yglesias. At one point, while enthusing about mass immigration, he mentioned as a positive hypothetical example, bringing foreign call center workers to the U.S. as a way of repatriating outsourced jobs. Baffled by his failure to account for the whole raison d’etre and workings of labor arbitrage, I turned off the radio and resumed my forever war with Bermuda grass. Hey, the guy went to Harvard. What do I know?

      Reply
    2. Altandmain

      Yep.

      This part of the article:

      “Unlike Trump, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has both the will to rebuild the manufacturing base and a concrete, detailed blueprint for accomplishing this crucial mission.”

      I find this very hard to believe. The NAFTA deal, bringing China into the WTO, etc was done by neoliberal Democrats. Clinton wanted to do the TPP, but was only forced to say otherwise by Sanders.

      Biden is too close to Wall Street and that is who he really serves.

      https://www.salon.com/2019/06/19/joe-biden-to-rich-donors-nothing-would-fundamentally-change-if-hes-elected/

      Biden has said before nothing will really change. Not a good sign at all.

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        Assuming Biden gets the nod, it will be very informative when the stock market subsequently “votes” after the election is finalized.

        If healthcare stocks, big pharma stocks, defense stocks and financial stocks are steady to higher, then the voting public will know how little change is expected to be provided by a Biden administration.

        The Democratic Party marketing of Biden is pitching voters that big pharma supporting, big finance supporting and war mongering Biden will behave completely differently than he has his entire political life.

        Is the voting public hoping for an upside from his alleged dementia?

        Reply
  4. RMO

    “There’s no time to waste,” he said. “It should have been started four years ago. It needs to happen right now.”

    Yeah, because as we all know, before 2016 no one in the US had to take a dead-end, minimum wage job and every administration before that made it their top priority to keep the manufacturing sector in the US extremely healthy.

    Of course Trump was talking rubbish. Biden is too. This may be seen as an improvement over Hillary’s campaign though where she didn’t seem to feel it necessary to promise much of anything and went with a “Don’t screw this up for me again you stupid peasants. You OWE me this” theme. If I were a US citizen I would probably vote for Biden (and probably would have voted for Hillary too) but I would hate doing so, would likely throw up when voting, and would hate the Democratic party for making me choose between him and Trump. And I would understand completely those people who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him.

    Reply
    1. voteforno6

      It isn’t exactly the ideal choice. Still, in my mind voting for Biden isn’t just a vote against Trump, it’s also a vote against Trump’s supporters. Those people are extremely obnoxious.

      Reply
      1. Laura in So Cal

        Thank you.
        I voted for Trump reluctantly in 2016 mostly based on his “no new wars” stance since I was positive that if Hillary Clinton got elected we would be in a war with Russia pretty quickly. I’m sure the fact that I have a 16 year old son influences how important I think that issue is. However, I never believed in the “deep state” conspiracy theories at all until I saw what happened after Trump was elected. The Russia gate stuff, Flynn, impeachment, and the coordinated TDS in the media was so revealing that now I’m a believer. I don’t like his personal style, but mostly I ignore what people say and look at what they do.
        As far as being obnoxious, I’m really sorry about all the rioting, looting, and burning being done by Trump supporters…oh wait. That was probably pretty snarky, but I’ll take obnoxious over criminal and violent any day.

        Reply
          1. Laura in So Cal

            Nope. I’m not okay with it. I’m mostly isolationist where war is concerned. I think we should bring all the troops home including from places like Germany. NATO is obsolete and we should stop picking fights with the Russians. We should let the Koreans figure out the Korean peninsula. We shouldn’t have troops in the Middle East where we’ve been propping up the Saudi’s for years.
            I’m making a choice of the lesser evil on the issue. What I see is that when Trump brings up withdrawing from places like Afghanistan, this happens.
            https://theintercept.com/2020/07/02/house-democrats-working-with-liz-cheney-restrict-trumps-planned-withdrawal-of-troops-from-afghanistan-and-germany/. I actually take the fact that a whole bunch of military brass has endorsed Joe Biden as a signal that MORE wars will happen under his administration. https://www.npr.org/2020/09/24/916184218/nearly-500-national-security-experts-endorse-biden-for-president

            Unfortunately, Trump has the attention span of a gnat. If he had made this his issue and really pushed it, he probably would be leading in the polls right now. I think his lack of focus & persistence is his biggest flaw.

            If the Democratic Party had nominated Tulsi Gabbard, I might have voted for her. She actually has some common sense.

            Don’t worry though. My vote doesn’t count in the presidential election since I live in California.

            Reply
            1. John Wright

              I also live in CA so my vote won’t count.

              A case can be made that even Biden supporters, in safe Biden majority states that Biden will win handily (CA for example), should vote Trump or Green.

              This lessens the “I have a mandate from the voters” a new President Biden could claim

              From https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/08/14/obama-biden-relationship-393570

              As Former President Obama has warned:

              “One Democrat who spoke to Obama recalled the former president warning, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up.” “

              Reply
            2. Yik Wong

              My vote doesn’t count in the presidential election since I live in California.

              It could if you helped the Green Party get over the 5% barrier and thus access matching funds in future elections. That would be significant. Then there is down ballot, where more can be done. Breaking any duopoly is a long struggle.

              Reply
            3. 1 Kings

              Um Laura so cal, are you new to site?.Trump has not stopped ANY wars, nor has the real ‘looting’ stopped since the day he, the Pres before him, the one before and the three in the 80’s and 90’s took the oath.
              Do a little research on our current Treasury Secretary, Obama’s and all the previous mentioned. That is where the TRILLIONS of looting has continued non stop. No matter what ‘color the state is.

              Reply
              1. Felix_47

                We owe the Dems for giving us Trump. He was HRCs hand picked Peter Pan candidate as we learned from Wikileaks. We owe the Dems for crushing Sanders, although he and his wife carry a lot of the blame. So maybe we should look at who is supporting them to decide. Sure looks like big law, big finance, the war machine, the health care machine are on one side. I say vote Trump and hope we can do better in four years….otherwise we are going to be waiting a long time. It’ll save on remodelling costs in the oval office. Biden was disqualified in 1988….he has only gotten older…

                Reply
  5. Sound of the Suburbs

    If only the Americans had understood free trade, they would have seen China’s rise and its own decline.

    How did the UK prepare to compete in a free trade world in the 19th century?
    It was all about the cost of living, and they needed to get that down so they could pay internationally competitive wages.
    UK labour would cost the same as labour anywhere else in the world.

    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
    Employees get their money from wages and the employers pay the cost of living through wages, reducing profit.

    Ricardo supported the Repeal of the Corn Laws to get the price of bread down.
    They housed workers in slums to get housing costs down.
    Employers could then pay internationally competitive wages and were ready to compete in a free trade world.

    Classical economics is rather different to neoclassical economics.

    Ricardo was part of the new capitalist class, and the old landowning class were a huge problem with their rents that had to be paid both directly and through wages.
    “The interest of the landlords is always opposed to the interest of every other class in the community” Ricardo 1815 / Classical Economist
    What does our man on free trade, Ricardo, mean?
    Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
    Employees get their money from wages and the employers pay the cost of living through wages, reducing profit.
    Employees get less disposable income after the landlords rent has gone.
    Employers have to cover the landlord’s rents in wages reducing profit.
    Ricardo is just talking about housing costs, employees all rented in those days.
    Low housing costs work best for employers and employees.

    Let’s look at the US cost of living.
    The cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs + food + other costs of living
    No wonder US firms off-shore to maximise profit.
    Those jobs ain’t coming back Mr. Trump.
    What sort of employer would be mad enough to pay the US cost of living in wages?
    There are loads of better alternatives.
    US firms couldn’t wait to get out of the US to places where they could make more profit.
    They then imported back into the US, to add to the trade deficit Trump keeps worrying about.

    Let’s look at China.
    Maximising profit is all about reducing costs.
    China had coal fired power stations to provide cheap energy.
    China had lax regulations reducing environmental and health and safety costs.
    China had a low cost of living so employers could pay low wages.
    China had low taxes and a minimal welfare state.
    China had all the advantages in an open globalised world.
    It did have, but now China has become more expensive and developed Eastern economies are off-shoring to places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
    The West was never going to do well.

    The classical economists could observe small state, unregulated capitalism in the world around them.
    Today’s economists worked up from micro foundations and got very confused.

    William White (BIS, OECD) talks about how economics really changed over one hundred years ago as classical economics was replaced by neoclassical economics.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6iXBQ33pBo&t=2485s
    He thinks we have been on the wrong path for one hundred years.
    Small state, unregulated capitalism was where it all started and it’s rather different to today’s expectations.

    Everyone pays their own way.
    Employees get their money from wages.
    The employer pays the way for all their employees in wages.
    Off-shore from the US, ASAP.

    China became a superpower and US influence in the world declined.

    Reply
    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      The West never really stood a chance, but no one in the West had understood how free trade actually works.
      They kept going on about productivity.
      You’ve got a machine or production line that produces widgets.
      Turn the dial to max. and that is as fast as it goes.
      Where do you put this machine or production line to maximise profit?
      China.

      Reply
    2. Bob

      “China had coal fired power stations to provide cheap energy.”

      This is not correct. Electrical power generation’s major cost is the cost of fuel. This means that the actual cost of electrical power varies greatly according to fuel source. Coal fuel is not a driver of cheap energy.

      Both Lazard and EIA make this clear.

      And interesting enough, simple, effective energy efficiency measures can save 14% of an energy bill on average, yet few manufacturing concerns take advantage of this opportunity. And this is at a levelized cost lower than any presently available fuel.

      Reply
      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        They are building coal fired power stations across South-East Asia.
        I think they want cheap energy to keep costs down.

        Why do you think they are doing this?

        Reply
        1. Yik Wong

          Partly they want a fuel source that isn’t imported*, and thus isn’t subject to American Reserve Currency weapon, and partly Bob over simplifies.. Fixed asset capital is the largest expense in Hydro and Nuclear.

          *China imports more coal from SE Asia, Oz, and South America than it consumes from domestic sources, seeing coal in the ground in China as a political reserve, and coal it purchases as a political weapon, both against US hegemony. It’s a great way to get rid of potentially valueless US Treasuries for something of real value.

          Reply
          1. Bob

            No, fixed asset capital does not by itself determine the cost of electrical power.

            The most accurate method to compare electrical power costs is to use levelized cost of power re Lazard or EIA.

            https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-analysis
            https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=21492

            It particular Hydro is very cheap around 2.2 cents per KWH. This is why the major consumers (Aluminum refining) are located in the in areas where there is a preponderance of hydro generation. Think the Columbia Basin project or Tennessee Valley Authority. Note that the fuel (falling water) for hydro generation is essentially free..
            .
            And yes I’ve tried to keep it simple – this is a complicated subject.

            Reply
            1. Yik Wong

              “Fixed asset capital is the largest expense in Hydro and Nuclear.”
              I’m curious, how did that somehow turn into Fixed asset capital is the only expense in Hydro and Nuclear in your mind?

              Reply
        2. Bob

          “Coal Imports into China
          China’s global purchases of imported coal totaled US$18.9 billion in 2019. Below are the top 15 suppliers from which China imported the highest dollar value worth of coal during 2019. Within parenthesis is the percentage change in value for each supplying country since 2015.

          Australia: US$9.3 billion (up 76.2% from 2015)
          Mongolia: $3.1 billion (up 473.9%)
          Indonesia: $3 billion (up 92.5%)
          Russia: $2.5 billion (up 144.1%)
          Canada: $672.3 million (up 21.3%)
          United States: $157.8 million (up 1165.4%)
          Colombia: $117.6 million (no 2015 data)
          Kazakhstan: $18 million (up 15141.5%)
          Vietnam: $8.7 million (down -80%)
          New Zealand: $4.9 million (down -79.4%)
          Kyrgyzstan: $4.7 million (up 1857.5%)
          Iran: $2.9 million (up 88.6%)
          Malaysia: $2.7 million (up 133.2%)
          Laos: $1.1 million (no 2015 data)
          Myanmar (Burma): $1 million (no 2015 data)
          The listed 15 countries shipped 99.9999% of coal imported by China in 2019.”

          http://www.worldstopexports.com/coal-imports-by-country/

          The point is that China does import a good bit of coal. And of course when any sort of goods are imported the importer pays for the commodity, for the labor to produce that commodity, and for shipping costs.

          The Chinese need electrical energy for development. Coal fired plants are a well understood, mature technology and the capital cost for power plants is relatively low. This does not mean that the cost of electrical power generated at coal fired plants is cheap since the majority of the cost for a power plant is the fuel.

          Reply
  6. anon

    Remind what Barack “those jobs aren’t coming back” Obama and Joe “you should learn to code” Biden ever do for American manufacturing workers?

    Reply
      1. apleb

        Trump did something. He increases tariffs so importing gets more expensive. Not necessarily productive, but he does something.

        Biden did, does and will do the opposite.

        And if both do nothing effective, there is no reason to vote for Biden either at least on this front.

        Reply
          1. apleb

            Before you link something, make sure it sustains your argument. Just look at the full chart of >=10 years.
            The imbalance is getting slowly worse since 2009, then ~2019 when Trump started his trade war it got actually massively better and 2020 it got really bad when Covid-19 hit.
            I’m not saying it’s sustainable, but you can easily make a point that it helped to have a tradewar and that the pandemic is really awful since it stopped export industry, tourism, etc.

            Reply
        1. Pookah Harvey

          What is Trump’s main stated purpose for his trade war?
          From his tweets his main concern seems to be “they’re stealing our intellectual property” thru the fact that China demands outside manufactures share those rights to have access to cheap labor and their huge market. American manufacturers jumped on board.
          1 China didn’t steal anything, the oligarchs moved American jobs to China
          2 The Intellectual Property Trump is so busy trying to protect is not “ours” but belongs to the global oligarchs.
          3. If China succumbs to Trump trade war and drops the sharing requirement, so an American company will no longer have to worry about sharing their IP with a potential competitor, is that an incentive or disincentive to move even more jobs to China?
          If Trump was serious about helping American manufacturing he would have demanded that China increase their labor protections and environmental laws, not protect international oligarchs’ intellectual property monopolies.

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Trump could demand China to increase China’s costs all day long, and China would never have to do it. So “demanding China” would have been an empty gesture.

            HowEVer . . . . the entire American government together, probably not just Trump by himself, COULD withdraw from all the Free Trade Organizations and cancel all the Free Trade Agreements. Then America would be free to forbid imports from every country with lower wages,lower standards, etc. than America has. America could still remain open for trade with countries where the wages, standards, etc. were as high as America’s or even higher. THAT competition would be on the basis of quality or other genuine values and not on differential-conditions arbitrage.

            Reply
  7. Chris Herbert

    The truth is our dominant macroeconomics is a myth laden construction designed to funnel all discretionary income up to the One Percent. Not a coincidence, by the way. After four decades of legal looting, America is a shadow of its former self. Parasite Capitalism and private debt are the main causes and consequent results. For the umpteenth time, repeat after me. Congress creates new money when it pays a bill. When Congress imposes a tax it extracts money from the system. Spend in Tax out. Unemployment is a political choice. Read anything by Bill Mitchell, or Stephanie Kelton’s new book ‘The Deficit Myth–Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy.’ Or Michael Hudson’s work, particularly his book ‘Killing the Host–How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy.’ We’re so brainwashed even politicians who know the truth are too afraid to talk (outside of AOC and her young turks), for fear of being labeled ‘crazy’ if they acknowledge the federal government budget is nothing like the household budget. Ignorance and cowardice run America now, and has been running America since Ronald Reagan. And a President Trump is our logical result.

    Reply
  8. Yik Wong

    Don’t know much about Tom Conway, but that he was hand picked by Leo Gerard, a fellow Canadian. Leo never held slag rake, or worked in any capacity on the shop floor of steel mill. He was hired before he completed his university degree as site representative of the USW, thanks in no small part to his father. USW and AFL-CIO are staffed pretty much from top to bottom with professional managers, and just like professional managers of plc corporations run them not for the benefit of external investors, but for a circle of cronies from the business schools, Leo and men like him mostly ran the unions to advance their own interests. You think political elections in the USA are a two party single oligarchy scam? Try getting nominated as a real candidate, and not window dressing, at a union election.

    This whole letter smacks of a shakedown, a threat against some interest of the oligarchy to induce them to take care of the union leadership so that they won’t press too hard on the button.

    Reply
    1. Yik Wong

      Must be getting Joe Biden disease, I forgot to mention that he was part of the Obama team charged with selling TPP, for which he was well rewarded. He is still part of Obama’s social circle. You should see the lake he owns, or rather the trusts that shield him own. Would not be surprised to learn Tom was one of the guys used by Leo on this project. So judge a man by his deeds, not by his words.

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  9. Mike Smitka

    The article carefully avoids any mention of electric arc furnace output, firms such as Nucor have long been the low-cost producers of basic steel. Those who smelt ore earn their money on automotive-grade steels, but do indeed face pressure as you can’t run a smelter at 50% output, that end of the industry has significant economies of scale. I don’t know the competitive position of US Steel in automotive, though as it happens I grew up downriver from the Great Lakes mill and as a child watched the sky redden when they’d do a “pour.”

    It also fails to look at manufacturing employment this past decade. In the US we hit a low of 11.5 mil in January 2010, and the number of jobs subsequently rose through February 2020, by a total of 1.3 million. There was no acceleration under Trump, but there was no decline until COVID.

    However, in the US the manufacturing share of the labor force has fallen in almost a straight line since its 1953 peak at 32.4%. In the latest data the share is at 8.6%, with barely a blip in 2008-9. This is not a US-specific phenomenon. Manufacturing employment peaked in Japan in 1992 and has since fallen 26%. Even China’s employment is down 20% from its peak in 2013.

    Quite simply, manufacturing productivity continues to increase faster than global demand, outside of garment and shoe production and a few similar labor-intensive sectors. Consequently jobs fall. Services dominate all except the poorest economies – in the US healthcare employs 30% more people than manufacturing. Improving the quality of jobs there will have more of an impact than any conceivable “industrial” policy. Certainly factories loom large in River Rouge and Ecorse, but the jobs are up Oakwood at Beaumont Hospital, or down Jefferson [Biddle] at the [now Henry Ford] Wyandotte Hospital, and their many smaller outposts.

    Reply
    1. Buckeye

      Yep about Nucor and other “mini mills”. Compared to a “traditional mill” they could match production with one-half the energy, one-half the equipment, and one-quarter the work force. My Dad (mechanical engineer) saw a mini mill in the early ’80’s, told his boss “we’ll be shut down in ten years” and they were.

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    2. Felix_47

      Healthcare is like litigation….there are few limitations. Half of the surgeries in the US are unnecessary. Most of the testing is unnecessary. The processes are stymied by legal and billing issues. The managerial legal class has created a productivity eating monster just like our legal system and our war system. Until we get a govt. takeover with doctors on salary with no productivity incentives, and elimination of the tort system it is just going to keep getting worse.

      Reply
  10. Alex Cox

    “Heaven forbid we ever get into a real conflict, and we don’t have the capability to produce our own steel for our military,” Kemper noted.

    How interesting that the interviewee sees things primarily through the perspective of the US’s capacity to fight further wars. As long as people think and talk like that, we are in much deeper trouble than the article suggests.

    Reply
    1. Yik Wong

      I could be mis-reading the scope of we, but the west are not in half as much trouble as those poor people on the receiving end of Trump’s 75000 bombs, or Obama’s nearly twice that amount in 8 years (Obama wanted to drop more, but actually overshot bomb building capacity, not steel, after after an intensive period re-educating the civilians of Syria on the transience of life).

      Reply

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