Biden, Bloomberg.com, Carrier, China, election 2020, Im-Politic, Indiana, Jobs, Mainstream Media, manufacturing, Mexico, Nelson D. Schwartz, tariffs, The New York Times, Trade, trade war, Trump, Trump Derangement Syndrome
Boy, here are two Mainstream Media articles that President Trump and his supporters (like me) sure would liked to have seen come out before Election Day in November rather than afterwards. Not that their appearance would have made much difference in the apparent outcome. But they did resoundingly vindicate high-profile Trump decisions that epitomized his approach to the trade and manufacturing issues so central to his agenda, and that were roundly criticized by his opponents – including apparent President-elect Joe Biden and union leaders.
The first came from Bloomberg.com, and it declared on December 20 that “Biden Will Inherit a Strong Hand Against Xi, Thanks to Trump.” That header was nearly as much of a stunner as the lead sentence: “Joe Biden will take office next month wielding more leverage over Beijing than he would have ever sought.” And the first reason cited? “Biden will be sworn in as president after Trump’s administration spent years ramping up pressure on China, including levying tariffs on $370 billion in imports….”
I call these statements stunners not because I don’t believe them, or because you may not believe them. Instead, they’re stunners on two main counts.
First, the apparent President-elect himself apparently doesn’t believe them. After all, he claimed earlier this year that, because of the Trump trade curbs, “Manufacturing has gone into a recession. Agriculture lost billions of dollars that taxpayers had to pay.” And last year, he argued that “President Trump may think he’s being tough on China. All that he’s delivered as a consequence of that is American farmers, manufacturers and consumers losing and paying more.”
Obviously, no one who really put any stock into these propositions could possibly also believe that such self-defeating moves could be of much use against foreign antagonists. Employing them or even threatening to employ them would be tantamount to vowing to hold your breath until you get what you want.
Maybe Biden regards the costs created by the Trump tariffs as smaller than the pain they’ve inflicted on China, and/or that they’re a reasonable price to pay for advancing or protecting U.S. interests threatened by China? Maybe. But the former Vice President has never made those points. At the same time, he’s also (since the election) decided to keep the tariffs in place pending a policy review. That makes no sense, either, if he really views them as an unmitigated disaster, and as a result, it will be fascinating to see if his deeds as President match these lastest words.
What seems certain, though, is that the political impact of a pre-election Biden acknowledgment that the trade levies have served any useful purpose would have had an awfully interesting impact on those manufacturing-heavy Midwestern battleground states that swung so narrowly back into the Democrats’ presidential corner after backing Mr. Trump in 2016.
But the Bloomberg article was also stunning because the folks at Bloomberg themselves never seemed to believe that the Trump tariffs did any good for Americans. For example, in September, 2019, a Bloomberg analysis (by a different author, but it ultimately was approved by the same editors) contended that “China is Winning the Trade War with Trump” because “On just about every metric that matters, China is ahead. At every turn, Trump seems to have been outplayed and outsmarted throughout the global trade war that began shortly after he took office.”
Two months later, Bloomberg readers were treated to this header: “How Trump’s Trade War Went From Method to Madness.” And let’s not forget December 10, 2019’s article with the news that “Trump’s China Tariffs Boomerang on America” because “Thanks to trade wars, companies are skimping on new U.S. plants and equipment.” Maybe I’m missing something, but none of these developments sounds like a source of leverage to me.
The second stunner article came out two days after Bloomberg‘s post-election paean to Trump-created trade leverage, and concerned the President’s efforts, which began early in his first White House run, to save jobs at Carrier manufacturing facilities in Indiana that were slated to be moved to Mexico. As a December 18 piece by New York Times reporter Nelson D. Schwartz reminded, the saga began with the company’s announcement in February, 2016 that was closing an Indianapolis furnace factory and sending its operations – and of course jobs – south of the border, where wages are much lower.
Candidate Trump quickly seized on the situation as a perfect example of how the offshoring-friendly trade policies of recent establishment Presidents, like the North American Free Trade Agreement were shortsightedly hollowing out the U.S. industrial base, and enriching executives and stockholders at the expense of American workers. And he quickly declared that, if elected, he would force the company to reverse the decision and save the jobs.
A not neligible firestorm ensued, with economists insisting that Mr. Trump’s actions amounted to pointless at best and bad at worst economics, and the usual gang of free market zealots in the media and think tank worlds condemning the candidate for seeking to move the United States well down the road to socialism and even worse. At least one local union leader called the arrangement reached by the then-President elect a “phony operation” and “a dog and pony show.”
And I wasn’t crazy about the specific measures eventually used by Mr. Trump to keep much of Carrier in Indiana, either – arguing that although such jaw-boning had major uses, tariffs were greatly preferable to the tax breaks that kept some of the company’s work and employment in the Hoosier State.
To their credit, Schwartz and other reporters didn’t forget about the story, but their follow-ups were overwhelmingly downbeat. (See, e.g., here, here, and here.) Schwartz’ own coverage sounded pretty grim, too. (See, e.g., here and here.)
So imagine my surprise to read the December 18 article’s headline proclaim that the “Carrier Plant is Bustling” and the text inform readers that
> “The assembly line is churning out furnaces seven days a week”;
>“overtime is abundant”;
>“Carrier has been hiring, adding some 300 workers and bringing the total work force to nearly 1,050”;
>”the Indianapolis plant offers a shot at a solidly middle-class lifestyle, with wages of more than $20 an hour, with time-and-a-half pay on Saturdays and double-time on Sundays”; and that
>”it’s clear that without Mr. Trump’s intervention even before he took office, the factory would never have become so prominent, if it had survived at all.”
Yes, Schwartz also noted that Carrier workers still feel highly insecure. But he also made clear that the reason is because they don’t trust Biden to look after them the way the President has.
As RealityChek has documented time and again, the Mainstream Media has displayed more than its share of Trump Derangement Syndrome over the last four years. Now that the President seems certain to leave office, is a wave of Trump Revisionism Syndrome in store?