Donald Trump was demonstrating once again why he won the presidential election and Democrats and his news media critics once more demonstrated how badly they have misjudged the American public.
On his Facebook page over the weekend, Trump posted, “The U.S. is going to substantially reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S…without retribution or consequence, is WRONG!
“There will be a tax on our strong border of 35 percent for these companies, wanting to see their product, cars, A.C. units, etc., back cross the border.”
“This tax will make leaving financially difficult…”
The naysayers immediately denounced that plan as unrealistic and, perhaps, damaging to the American economy.
Such a giant tariff would increase American consumer costs, make it more difficult for U.S. companies to compete internationally and likely result in a trade, with other nations imposing tariffs on American goods being sold in foreign lands.
I don’t doubt there’s some truth in all of that.
But here’s what American workers heard: “Someone finally cares about you and is willing to go to war for you.’
For decades as American factories shut their doors and manufacturing jobs were lost to China, Japan, South Korea and other foreign countries, U.S. workers were told the same thing by their political leaders.
Sorry, nothing we can do. There’s an international marketplace now and the cost of labor is cheaper in foreign countries. You have to find new jobs in the computer industry, even if you know nothing about computers. Forget those expectations about earning a salary large enough to send your children to college or save for retirement. And for goodness sake don’t mention the word pension. Pensions are gone.
What the U.S. worker heard was elected officials saying, in effect, quit your whining, be happy that American companies are making big dollars overseas (while avoiding U.S. taxes) and understand that your government has no intention of going to bat for you.
That sort of message so angered traditional Democratic voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that Trump’s pledge to keep manufacturing jobs here and penalize companies that seek to do business overseas made him an instant hero.
Traditional Republican office holders who advocated free trade agreements with Asian countries and Mexico, who believed that whatever was good for corporate America was good for the U.S.A., had alienated those same working stiffs.
Whether or not Trump actually meant what he said during his presidential campaign, at least he seemed to understand how angry many Americans were with a government that no longer seemed to represent them.
In one of his first acts, the president-elect stopped a plan by Carrier in Indiana to close a factory and move 800 jobs to Mexico. Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, who is still governor of Indiana, came up with millions of dollars in tax incentives to keep the company in the U.S.
But critics quickly pointed out that Carrier is still closing another factory in Indiana and moving about 700 jobs to Mexico.
Some people will see that as a glass half full, others as half empty. I’m guessing that the workers who get to keep their jobs aren’t worried about the semantics or the tax subsidies.
Meanwhile, one of Trump’s key economic advisers told a group of businessmen that the president-elect is not going to rip up NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), as he vowed to do several times on the campaign trail. Trump believes in free trade after all, the adviser said.
So what does this all mean. It means that Trump, as always, has no problem saying one thing and doing another. In that regard he’s just another politician. I can’t help wondering if he and his Cabinet team of billionaires can really relate to the working stiff.
But Democrats, rather than criticizing Trump, ought to be putting together their own initiatives to spur job growth. Somehow, they still don’t get it.
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