Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised he would keep jobs from leaving America for places like China and Mexico where companies can pay lower wages.
Last week, Trump persuaded air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier to keep its Indiana plant open. The company announced it would keep about 1,000 jobs across two Indiana locations — instead of moving them to Mexico.
It’s not uncommon for local government officials to try and persuade companies from moving their jobs across borders, it is rather unprecedented for a President-elect (let alone a President) to spend his time haggling over 1,000 jobs. After all, the US economy creates about 180,000 jobs a month these days.
But Trump claims he wants to stick to these unorthodox tactics.
During an interview with Time magazine’s Michael Scherer after being named “2016 Person of the Year,” Trump said he wants to speak with the CEOs of any company considering shipping jobs overseas. He told Reince Priebus, the next White House chief of staff:
“Hey, Reince, I want to get a list of companies that have announced they’re leaving,” Trump said. “I can call them myself. Five minutes apiece. They won’t be leaving. O.K.?”
And, in a series of tweets fired out on Sunday, Trump issued a warning to CEOs who are thinking about moving jobs out of America.
“The U.S. is going to substantially [sic] reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S, without retribution or consequence, is WRONG!”
While Trump says this is all part of his plan to “Make America Great Again,” sceptics like Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman think no matter what Trump does manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back to America. In part its because they’re not all moving abroad. Most, in fact, are being automated out of existence.
In a tweetstorm sent out in late-November, Krugman said, “Nothing policy can do will bring back those lost jobs. The service sector is the future of work; but nobody wants to hear it.”
That doesn’t matter to Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to protect American jobs and, now, can tout the Carrier deal as an early victory in that effort.
He is also taking credit for a pledge by Masayoshi Son, the CEO of the Japanese telecom SoftBank, in which the company said it would bring $50 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs to America over the next few years. (SoftBank, which was raising a fund to invest in tech long before the election-outcome was determined, was probably always going to do this).
These are just two situations in a country where businesses are choosing to invest, divest, hire and fire all the time. It’s hard to see how he’s going to pick on every single CEO who cuts against his jobs promise. But he’s trying: he’s also Tweeted about Rexnord, a ball-bearing maker that’s moving its Indiana plant to Mexico and “viciously firing all of its 300 workers.”
There’s no word yet on if Rexnord will change it’s plans but this tweet may speak to what Trump is really planning to do: name and shame and hope that this discourages everyone from doing things he doesn’t want to see done. After all, it takes a lot less time to fire off a tweet that sends a chill through the C-suite at Boeing, than to call every CEO in America.