Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 17, 2020
One of the rotten things about election campaigns is the exaggerated credit the candidates take, whether towards security and world affairs, the economy, or, this year, the steps towards controlling the pandemic.
Add in that Joe Biden has the task of explaining every bad decision over 50 years in public service and that Donald Trump is a habitual liar about his own grandiose self, and it spells a bad season for any hopes of truth-telling, but may make debates amusing.
Still, we’re looking for directions in policy more than a chance to award gold stars, so comparing what they say against what they do is useful.
Each of these two candidates says, for example, that he will be the better choice for protecting and growing American jobs, and, in particular, are taking that message across the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, where margins are small and, as we saw four years ago, a small difference can tip the Electoral College majority.
Forget national polling, except as a trend gauge. What matters are pockets of voters in states or even portions of states where un-measurable turnout will determine this election.
So, the reactions to competing messages about saving jobs from off-shoring, about keeping plants from closing, about rebuilding economic health from the disasters of pandemic and decades of manufacturing slide matter here just a little more than elsewhere.
So, here’s the set-up: Joe Biden has to predict a better jobs future while defending his past, and Donald Trump is busily inventing a narrative that shows his tariff-driven economy as a positive that isn’t really present.
Biden has to explain that his support over the years for NAFTA and other trade agreements did not promote companies into fleeing American wages and environmental rules, and has proposed a penalty for companies that continue to do so. Biden was also part of saving the auto industry altogether in 2009. Of course, that companies over the years found it more profitable to outsource, and walked away from community responsibilities may have little to do with who is in the Oval Office.
Trump, on the other hand, claims personal responsibility for bringing auto plants back from overseas, even though even cursory examination shows that claim is imaginary. “Many plants are being built right now — auto plants — in Michigan, just like I said,” Trump said just this week. “They’re being built in Ohio, they’re being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they’re being built all over and expanded at a level that we’ve never seen before.”
Except that they are not being built. The Washington Post and the Center for Automotive Research, say Trump is making it up.
Records show that four new auto plants have promised to open since 2016, iand two who announced plans when Biden was Vice President. Three are in Michigan, one in Alabama. And other plants continued to close, including those that Trump lobbied to keep open.
Announced new plants include: Navya, a French company, which is adding 50 jobs to assemble driverless shuttle vans from foreign kits; Toyota, 4,000 jobs, which closed the plant first in Alabama only to announce re-opening plans for a new, yet undesignated car; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), an Italian-American multinational, said in 2018, it will bring 3,850 jobs to an converted plant in Detroit to build Jeeps; and Waymo, a U.S. subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., said last year it would add up to 400 jobs to build driverless cars in Detroit. Add in Tesla, which grew jobs on its own without Trump’s involvement.
In total, these are 8.300 jobs that replace jobs lost. This is massive growth?
The car research firm said there were announced investments of $41 billion in Trump’s term, as compared with $64 billion in the last Obama-Biden term.
Of course, Trump also wants us to forget that pandemic brings unemployment and pressures on car purchases.
Over decades, U.S. manufacturing jobs continue to decline, though there have been some rebounds in the last few years. Products have become multi-national affairs, and the pandemic has brought home the desire for more American-only manufacture for pharmaceuticals and protective gear.
Thus, when we can shut out all the insults of this ugly campaign, we can understand the competing desires to encourage American-made products (except Make America Great gear, which still is being made in China).
One area that Donald Trump has supported vigorously has been weapons manufacture, which he touts as part of international trade, but for which this week he denounced the top brass at the Pentagon.
Trump has made the purchase, public display and foreign sales of military hardware a major priority of his administration. He has vastly increased defense spending, and worked to sell more aircraft and weaponry to a variety of countries than under Obama, .
with $56 billion in foreign weapons sales in 2018 compared with $34 billion in 2016.
So, it seems odd to hear Trump trash his generals who “want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Hey, it’s only election talk.
No one should take it seriously until they actually think about what is being said.