By Oliver Roberts
Subedited by Anjali Gaur
Writing on an American establishment outside of America, whilst not being an American citizen who stands to bear the fruit or ills of such, should feel like something of a delicate task. It’s easy to hear in one’s head, ‘What do you know? It doesn’t affect you.’ While that statement is truthful; it’s a fair assessment to state that America certainly holds the power to influence and set an example to the world for better or for worse. Presciently, the Trump administration has shown countless times its ability to strike ire and deep concern globally, none so poignantly as the Paris climate agreement withdrawal. The deluge of drama outside of this, Russia, racism, gender discrimination, blatant lying, goading nuclear power and an off the hook Twitter account seemingly locked in BLOCK CAPITALS(!), leads an outsider to question this administration’s popularity and if such a thing still exists.
It does – it does quite feverishly in parts of America. This works on several strong themes but there are two that stand out on reflection of his post-campaign rallies. First that Trump is very, very much a ‘change’. Approximately 60 million people voted for Donald J Trump, and boy oh boy, is that what we’ve got. While Berlusconi pre-dates him as a world statesman who appears to breathe a sense of dodgy on every single level, America has never quite had a president in the bullying, arrogant, tactless, all action-no listening mould of Trump. Secondly, the only remotely admirable come reality based pledge in any of Trump’s presidential campaign, was the war cry against the loss of American jobs, in particular those lost through decades of automation and globalisation. Despite some stark realities glaring his administration in the face, Trump has very much gone after job creation and revitalisation in forgotten areas.
The great sin of automation isn’t the loss of jobs, it’s the abandonment of people, who for a long time were a literal backbone of society. People who once had careers of value with benefits have at best been left with zero hour contracts, agency work, part time work and all the wonderful gravy of a gig economy. Many from former industrial regions across Europe to the rust belt in America have been left with nothing. As detailed brilliantly in Mary O’Hara’s Austerity Bites (2014), community organisers in the north of England paint the picture clearly: ‘People are seeing their area, their community, slowly going down and down. It’s that anxiety over that change that is causing a lot of problems.’ Trump has near surgically been serving the victims of the automotive march of globalisation, and in doing so is providing the exact news his voter base wants to hear. However, like most things concerning a certain Donald J, statements, ‘facts’ and reality need to be observed to see what’s really happening here.
Low and behold, we are brought swiftly to a Twitter account. The most powerful man on earth feels an unstoppable compulsion to announce his say on anything whenever his mood deems fit. While I’m certain my understanding of this will not happen before I die, much touting of his administration’s job creating deals has been online. Most recently on August 9th 2017, claiming within the first six months of office that his administration had created over one million jobs, 1,074,000, to be precise. That’s quite the number indeed – with the time frame in mind, it’s close to a mind blowing number. Funnily enough, thanks to its source, it’s sure-fire bollocks. Unfortunately, for the man himself, who it appears would like to believe the economy has only ever had movement since January 20th 2017, and for his supporters, counting on his magical deal making capacity, the majority of this figure is made up of jobs that were already in the pipeline under the Obama administration.
It’s important to get the pure disinformation out of the way. Trump’s allegiance and posturing to the coal miners of America was nothing short of cruel. Coal has not been sustainable for decades and has been in decline for as long as Trump has been alive. Clean coal is a form of technology widely unused and yet to be truly proven. In short, if you were once a coal miner, the world no longer has a place for you in that line of work and a thoughtless, cavalier loud mouth from New York can’t save you from that. Trump claims 45,000 mining jobs have been created under his administration. The Bureau of Labour Statistic bursts this bubble with ease – 800 mining jobs have been created as of January. It’s worth noting though, although this 800 is a slap in the face to miners themselves as expected, the mining excavations and logging industry has seen an increase of 42,000 jobs. One could argue this is the oldest political trick in the book – look at our marvellous spreadsheets while the people on the ground feel nothing.
Trump’s offhanded braggadocio approach to, well, everything, is yet to haunt him. It potentially never will on the grounds that one ginormous statement of nothing is hard to keep up with when 16 more have been produced within days. Yet in regards to his job creation it’s near embarrassing. Off the back of his G7 exploits (that time the ‘Happy Pope’ looked like he’d witnessed child murder), Trump tweeted he’d signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia producing ‘millions’ of US jobs. Lockheed Martin, the party contracted under this deal made it clear over 30 years the deal would only provide 18,000 jobs in America. This information is the beginning of a pattern: Trump’s job creation is nowhere remotely near what he had promised or is claiming, yet… it is happening, jobs have been created definitively under the Trump administration. He is hitting the softest sweet spot he was voted into office on.
His claim on the 11th of April that approximately 600,000 jobs had been created in a short period of time is, once again, simply not the truth. Yet, as we’ve seen so far, the truth isn’t actually anything to be snubbed at. His office only came into power as of the 20th of January, so it is disingenuous for Trump to claim that the 200,000 so jobs created in January were all his doing. That being said, throughout February and March over 300,000 jobs were created and tenuously or otherwise, it’s within his remit to claim that. The argument in the face of this information is if his voter base is actually seeing the spoils of such creation. More potently, in the reality that these jobs aren’t for them precisely, will his voters hold a belief or even myth that created jobs are coming their way somewhere down the line? Such hypothetical territory needs considering when a global brand is president. Keep in mind the ‘master builder’ is nothing of the sort and hasn’t been for years, he’s just leased his name to be used on real estate the world over. All is not as it appears to be, but if appearances are the remit on which you judge a president, more than understandable with its popularity contest, money drenched campaigning, Trump could easily be your man. Trickle-down economics was successfully sold to us all on the very same logic of ‘all in good time’.
If the darkness in the tale of the Trump administration is found in its inability to hold a consistent grasp on truth, lies or reality, it should be alarming that propaganda is riddled throughout his job creation strong point to a quite staggering degree. The March 28th tweet on a Ford manufacturing deal finishing with “… car companies coming back to the U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” is full metal bollocks of the highest order. Despite its $1.2 billion investment, Ford’s programme offers the creation of only 130 jobs. Less hopefully, it has the condition to create, or… retain, 130 jobs. This should not be sweet news ringing in the ears of supporters of job creation. It’s a claim big on numbers but supporters should be wary, there is zero promise of job ‘creation’ here, it’s down to Ford. Kellyanne Conway popped up over this deal with her own stirring of the spoon on Twitter. She was less needed on a previous Presidential tweet on March 24th. Celebrating Charter Communications bringing 20,000 jobs to the U.S., Trump was claiming credit for a deal agreed nine months before he was even elected. Some sources claiming two years previous.
Trump’s opportunism is a force to be reckoned with. The only counterweight to a man who appears void of all accountability running a post of the upmost accountability, is his ability to shoot himself in the foot. That being said he knows how to use propaganda and his aides are on queue. He was rightfully able to announce the creation or retention of 900 General Motors jobs on March 15th in Michigan. Keeping an eye on the subtext is all important though. The Trump campaign’s doom and gloom ‘American carnage’ narrative feeds the promotion of his influence on an economy that was already at a steady pace in the US. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, it is believed that these 900 jobs of General Motors would in fact be going to those previously made redundant at another GM plant in Michigan, approximately 1000 people. Hearing such a statement at a Trump rally in Michigan however, is nothing short of a boon for those behind him, many of whom could well feel vindicated under a merciless fusillade from a ‘hysterical’ ‘fake’ media.
Over the month of February the president announced good news about job creation. Yet both Walmart and Fiat Chrysler kept Trump’s presence in the business at arm’s length. While Walmart had announced their plan for 10,000 jobs across America back in October 2016 according to Reuters, Fiat Chrysler were considerably sassier with CEO Sergio Marchionne saying, ‘We don’t make investment decisions based on risk of a tweet.’ While this indifference to Trump would surely work against the ‘art of the deal’ archetype he is sold on, this Fiat Chrysler job deal is one he can afford to take a knock on. It’s a further $1 billion investment and 2000 jobs created, but once again his base needs considering. This investment and job boost is arriving in Fiat plants in Ohio and Michigan where Trump swept respective electoral colleges.
‘The Businessman’ is the ideal of the Trump persona. It’s the one playing card that’s poorly timed for the planet, but Trump’s ties to the business world and billionaires could be viewed as means to economic prosperity. If Trump had things he’d be uniquely equipped for over other candidates, surely it would be the ability of a deal maker. Somewhat disheartening is the reveal of corporates happily playing along with that narrative despite seeing no proof. On the 6th March it was announced a whopping 45,000 manufacturing and construction jobs would arrive courtesy of Exxon Mobil. Of course, it is a 10 year project dating back to 2013, but Rex Tillerson’s old flame still rubbed Trump’s back plenty. Other manufacturers in the same position have distanced themselves from the president or his words. General Motors’ billion dollar announcement on January 17th was disclaimed as Trump’s doing by spokesperson Joanne Krill when he tried to infer as much. This is not what Exxon Mobil did. Exxon responded through their CEO ‘appreciating his commitment’. Obviously, there are many factors here: bad for the planet, claiming job creation that wasn’t his, corporate interests seeping its way inside government – this all sounds grim. Yet without further examination, it’s 45,000 jobs appearing and Trump stating, ‘I said we’re bringing jobs back. This is one big example of it.’ A scene ending line from a TV star, it should be noted – if you put your vote down for that guy, this would be your catnip.
In just the first six months of his presidency, it’s clear to see the patterns and themes of his job creation programme. There is an unapologetic meddling with figures, and in all fairness to the Trump administration, they are hardly reinventing the wheel there. There is a lot of claiming credit off previous administrations’ successes and wildly bloating their shortcomings. Once again, nothing new in politics. There is a myth in the air about a lone leader with unique power to solve political ills. This can’t be held against the Donald either, that Obama guy told us he’d reach across the aisle, not widen it by 75 feet. There is telling voters of the administration the exact bits of information they love to hear in order to strengthen support for agenda, please tell me nobody thinks that’s anything new. In truth, when it comes to the pure running of a political regime, this Trump administration is getting on with it like any before and this is what needs desperate consideration at the most turbulent of times. Anyone counting on a resignation or some form of explosive drama to take the brash billionaire off his throne (Russia or one of the several litigation courses concerning the man) is close to a fantasist or at least has a novice understanding of legal process. As late night TV has correctly called, ‘Trump doesn’t throw you under the bus, he is the bus.’ In other words, the man is immune to drama. In spite of the one million jobs figure being a lot closer to half that when being generous, Trump still has capital.
He has the strongest capital because it’s the very same capital that bought him the ticket he rode in on. If you are in Michigan or Ohio, hearing the president’s claims then seeing them visibly happening, surrounded by those in your community seeing the same, there is good reason to believe the Trump vote still stands. If 2016 taught us anything politically, it’s that people prioritize their own front line issues as most important and let others fall aside, a somewhat understandable yet ultimately self-endangering act. From racial flaring to nuclear sabre-rattling to attacking morning news hosts personally, in many eyes, Trump may be the most dysfunctional president memory can permit. Yet for the job revivalists and its entire notion, between statements and figures produced for his voters, Trump appears a man of his word.
Perhaps you’re in Wisconsin and see a $10 billion plant from Foxxcom promising 3,000 jobs go up after your President announced he’d made it so. This is the very magical power that every voter wishes they had with their elected representatives deep down, ‘make my unrealisable dreams realisable’. At the start of this article it was stated Trump had been near ‘surgical’ in following up his jobs pledge, ironically, the only thing standing in the way of this ‘surgery’ would be backdraft from the piss poor handling of the ACA, but behind the fireworks display there is some calculated work going on. He’s applying his PR to genuine agrievance and desperation, and this has worked before.
This article has been written in the wake of Charlottesville, and in the face of his moral vacancy, one can only imagine that some supporters of Trump (a vast plethora of many, the term ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’ being bunk and dis-informative) have been given a genuine challenge to their allegiance. It’s been stated by many people of both the left and right, that in all the lines of division, people’s voting motives are more one-dimensional than ever. In short, despite Mexican’s getting dismissed as ‘bad hombres’, rapists and housekeepers, despite a history of evicting African Americans and a cringe worthy belief that all are found in ‘inner cities’, despite a transparent tone of Sinophobia and despite a public viciousness to any woman that comes along – Trump got the votes. Very ugly, damaging matters have been put aside for a vote before. This is politics, you think history doesn’t repeat itself?
2020 is not far away and be sure, even in this, his most isolated of moments, the President has been building capital with those that count. Economists and experts can state his manufacturing war cry and efforts are all for naught in a fading landscape. That may well be true, but that may well endear him to his voters – don’t take him lightly.