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Trump’s Lies about Trade

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It’s a weird time for me. Out of Sight is a book of desperate outrage about capital mobility and how it has both destroyed the American working class and exploited people overseas. Of course Donald Trump is claiming he cares about NAFTA and trade. He doesn’t. There’s no evidence in his career that he cares at all about these issues. But he’s realized that it is a good piece of symbolism for the white nationalism he does care about and he’s realized that voters care about it. So he is demagoguing the issue. I am giving a couple of talks this semester about Out of Sight. I simply cannot let anyone come out of these talks and think “I am going to vote for Donald Trump.” I see no other way to deal with this that what I prefer to avoid in both teaching and public lectures–talking directly about who to vote for in an election. I gave a talk last week at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. And I included a new slide in the Powerpoint that was a picture of Trump (the one in this post) with my caption of saying this is not how to solve these problems. And some students walked out at that point. But I don’t really care. Because what else am I supposed to do?

Anyway, it’s always useful to remember that Donald Trump is lying when he says he cares about trade and American workers. He’s always been as happy to exploit labor as any capitalist.

“What he says really appeals to our members,” said Jim Johnston, President of USW Local 1219, which represents workers at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works. “But what he does is the total opposite.”

Along with other union officials at a Tuesday news conference outside the Braddock mill, Mr. Johnston noted a Newsweek report, which found that in two of Mr. Trump’s recent building projects he “opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations based in states like Pennsylvania.”

“[H]e is not someone who ever attempted to lead by example,” concluded the magazine.

“Donald Trump pretends to be in the corner of steelworkers when the facts — as always with Donald Trump — show otherwise,” said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, a Democrat.

In a statement, Trump campaign senior policy adviser Curtis Ellis called the Newsweek story “false on its face. … The Trump Organization does not purchase steel — it works with contractors to build buildings. Those contractors follow the market, a market that the Chinese have exploited with subsidies, dumping and other predatory trade practices.”

“America’s steelworkers know that Hillary’s support of NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO are responsible for job losses and devastation in their industry,” said the statement, referring to a 1990s trade deal and China’s entry into the global trade regime. “Mr. Trump’s comprehensive plan to cut taxes, reduce regulation, unleash our energy sector, and eliminate the trade deficit will bring good, high-paying manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”

Among other things Trump is lying about, it’s that the one industry capital mobility, NAFTA, and Chinese entry into the WTO did not kill it was the steel industry. That was done in by a combination of the U.S. government wanting to boost the economy of its Asian allies, the lack of investment in new factories by the American steel companies, and other American businesses looking for new steel supplies because of the constant labor strife in the industry. But the truth doesn’t really matter in an election. Trump’s message is powerful. Five decades of American policymakers not really caring what happens to those who lose their jobs due to capital mobility creates a lot of people willing to believe anything that helps them understand their loss of social status and economic mobility. Trump and his lies about trade provides some of that.

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