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the U.S. were truly committed to state-of-the-art manufacturing, we would have a large-scale commitment to rebuild our out-of-date infrastructure.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

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.


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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work