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Buy American Lies

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The problem with politicians and corporations promoting their own Made in America campaigns isn’t that we shouldn’t have an industrial policy that promotes domestically made goods. It’s that their promises are almost always lies. Take Foxconn, best known for having to put up suicide nets in its Chinese factories so that workers don’t throw themselves to their death while making your computers and phones. It has claimed it would build a big factory in Pennsylvania. Got itself lots of good press, workers in the Keystone State thought they would be able to work industrial jobs again. And then?

But the factory was never built. The jobs never came. “It just seemed to fade to black” after the announcement, recalled a local official. It was the start of a mystery, created by a chief executive known to promise projects all over the world that never quite pan out. Yet few people seem to notice. Foxconn and others continue to get credit for deals that never take place. In December, Pennsylvania’s economic development staff was still touting the $30 million factory that never was.

What happened in Harrisburg provides a skeptical lens for viewing the waves of corporate investment promises being used by Trump as evidence that he is following through on his campaign pledge to reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing. “I’m delivering on everything we promised,” Trump said last month during a meeting with manufacturing executives at the White House, noting how firms have announced new hiring and factories. “People are saying they’ve never seen so much happen in 30 days of a presidency.”

Foxconn, for example, announced shortly after Trump’s election that it plans to invest $7 billion and hire up to 50,000 workers in the United States. Such a hiring spree would catapult Foxconn from a couple thousand U.S. workers to a major employer on par with Chrysler.

Other companies, too, including SoftBank, Alibaba, Intel and IBM, have made an unusual display of loudly announcing their intentions to invest in the United States — all with price tags in the billions of dollars and the promise of tens of thousands of jobs — much to Trump’s delight.

“Foxconn is going to spend a tremendous amount of money on building a massive plant,” Trump said the day after the investment was revealed, “and probably more than one.”

But, as Harrisburg learned, the gulf between these eye-popping announcements and what takes place on the ground can be huge — and frequently overlooked.

But hey, I’m sure Trump is going to ensure accountability, right? We all know how much he values buying American!

The Keystone XL Pipeline will not be subject to President Donald Trump’s executive order requiring infrastructure projects to be built with American steel, a White House spokeswoman said today.

Trump signed the order calling for the Commerce Department to develop a plan for U.S. steel to be used in “all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipelines” inside the U.S. projects “to the maximum extent possible.”

Of course. Because it’s all show. He doesn’t care about this at all. The proximate cause might be TransCanada’s NAFTA lawsuit against the U.S., but of course this sort of thing is in all sorts of trade agreements, as opposed to any workers’ rights being protected in them, so between this and the frequent lies of corporations on these issues, there’s no reason to believe that any meaningful infrastructure investment using American-made steel will actually materialize.

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