24. His record on jobs reveals his promises were empty
Back in 2016, DT made a solemn vow, invoking God, promising to make the creation of American jobs a top priority. Even before the pandemic struck, he had failed to deliver: fewer new jobs were created between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2020 than in the preceding four-year interval under President Obama. If one filters out jobs with low wages and no benefits, such as those in the service and retail industries, the numbers are even worse. American manufacturing has not seen a rebound under DT. In fact, some industries are much worse off than they were. In Michigan alone, there are more than 50,000 fewer manufacturing jobs now than there were before he took office, and the situation is nearly as dismal in other Rust Belt states.
It wasn’t that he tried and failed; the unimpressive numbers are the inevitable result of his isolationist, anti-trade policies. Now, more than six months into the pandemic with no relief in site, things are looking far worse. DT spews his usual blustering falsehoods about economic recovery, but the fact is that his is the first administration in 87 years to record a net loss of jobs after four years. To find a record that bad, you have to go all the way back to Herbert Hoover.
There is little doubt that the decline of American manufacturing resulted in part from bad policies pursued by presidents and congresses of both parties. Politicians typically find it more expedient to kowtow to corporate interests seeking maximum short-term profits than to do the hard work of helping to guide industries to do the right thing by their employees over the long haul. A carrot-and-stick approach involving tax incentives and penalties might have worked wonders in persuading American industries to keep skilled jobs stateside instead of outsourcing them abroad, but such a move would have met fierce resistance from American CEOs and their lobbyists, who pocket politicians as routinely as the rest of us pocket our car keys.
For a lot of industries, it’s probably too late. The infrastructure to restart manufacturing domestically no longer exists in many cases, and to rebuild it would require a financial commitment beyond what any company is willing to undertake. This may not be true across the board, however, and it’s worth careful study to see whether some of the bleeding can be stanched. Moreover, moving purposefully and rapidly toward a carbon-neutral economy will almost certainly create an unprecedented number of new skilled jobs in the U.S. Joe Biden is largely on board with these ideas. Under DT, they will never—could never—happen.
Politicians, including presidents, are notorious at breaking promises. Oftentimes the promises are made in good faith, and genuine attempts to fulfill them are made, but these end in failure. Other times, candidates don’t have enough information about an issue, so they recklessly make commitments they later find they can’t possibly keep. DT’s promises don’t follow either of those templates. In his case, the promises are empty because he’s ignorant of what fulfilling them would entail, he doesn’t want to bother with—or is incapable of—learning about such complex issues, and he doesn’t really care about serving the American people anyway, not even his supporters. They serve a purpose for him, that’s all.
DT’s promises are made in bad faith. We can only hope that many of the idled workers who believed him four years ago are less gullible now.