Manufacturing Lies

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Donald Trump promises to make American manufacturing great again. Yet all of his policies would do just the opposite.

America was going to get tough on NAFTA, right? The goal was to “rebalance” trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Well, a parade of corporate lobbyists demanding that we keep NAFTA has caused the administration to put off negotiations.

If NAFTA is renegotiated, the changes will be mostly cosmetic. And anyway, NAFTA is only a small part of American manufacturing woes.

If we were serious about restoring good blue-collar manufacturing jobs, what would it take? For starters, we’d need an industrial policy, something that both political parties have rejected as meddling with the market.

One place where we actually have a modest industrial policy is at the Energy Department, where government spends $300 million a year supporting new technologies to help American companies compete in emerging industries such as solar energy and wind turbines. Oops, the Trump administration proposes to shut all of that down — too associated with Obama and who needs green industries when we have coal?

If we were serious about manufacturing, we’d take a much harder line with China’s strategy of luring American industry to move to China with a combination of subsidized factories and cheap labor, with the proviso that U.S. companies share their trade secrets with Chinese “partners.” Where’s Trump on that? Nowhere — he foolishly thinks that if we tread lightly with China on trade issues, Beijing will help restrain the North Koreans.

And if the U.S. were truly committed to state-of-the-art manufacturing, we would have a large-scale commitment to rebuild our out-of-date infrastructure. That would generate new technologies, as well as millions of made-in-America jobs.

Trump has talked a good game on infrastructure, but no program has emerged. Why not? One reason is that Trump and the Republican Congress would rather give away on tax breaks for corporations and rich individuals the trillions that we need to modernize antiquated public systems.

Trump’s sometimes adviser and sometimes nemesis Steve Bannon speaks of a new economic nationalism that would help bring good jobs back to America. He is recruiting challengers to contest the senate seats of Republicans who Bannon considers too corporate.

But when you get down below the level of slogan, not a single one of the candidates who Bannon has talked about recruiting is serious about an industrial policy for America. All of them would prefer tax breaks for the rich to large scale spending on infrastructure. Even on NAFTA, where there are a handful of hawkish Republicans, the odds are that in the end the corporate wing of the Republican Party will prevail. 

A key question going forward is whether, and when, the people who voted for Trump will wake up and realize that he is screwing them. 

Scarcely a day goes by without a story that illustrates the disconnect between Trump’s policies and the interests of the people who support him. Last week, the Senate voted 51-to-50, with Vice President Pence breaking a tie, to overturn a consumer protection rule that prohibited binding arbitration in cases of a wide range of corporate consumer abuses, denying aggrieved citizens access to the courts. Nearly every Republican voted on the corporate side.

Mark Twain famously observed that it’s easier to fool a person than to convince him that he’s been fooled. The next time Trump promises to restore the greatness of American manufacturing, take a close look at the details. If you still believe him, I have a (crumbling) bridge to sell you.

***

Reposted from The Huffington Post.

Robert Kuttner's new book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He is co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior Fellow at Demos, and teaches at Brandeis University's Heller School.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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