EDITOR’S NOTE: During the run-up to the 2020 presidential sweepstakes The Shinbone Star will highlight Big Lies uttered and promoted by the current occupant of the White House, lies that hurt our country. Today we tackle The Donald’s “big bribes” (unkept promises) offered to many Americans during the 2016 election season. These were payola pledges that helped land him in the White House where his borderline criminal and mob-boss-like antics during the past nearly three years have ripped apart our country and done little to next-to-nothing for the average worker.
Forget for a few minutes Donald J. Trump’s attempts at “bribing” Ukraine President Zelensky into digging up dirt on a potential political rival in the 2020 presidential elections. Let’s explore his first run at political bribery during the 2016 campaign.
“Big Bribes” — designed to secure votes for the failed casino owner, struggling New York real estate operator, presidential wannabe — energized crowds across the country in the fall of 2016.
A roaring economy, he predicted. American companies bringing manufacturing operations back to native shores, he boasted. The revival of the nation’s coal industry so fast and furious it would make coal miners’ heads spin, he promised.
A return of manufacturing might in the steel industry that would reopen shuttered steel mills and restore the financial well-being of cities — many almost ghost towns — across the country once heavily dependant on the industry.
And of course the big, “beautiful” wall along our shared border with Mexico that would, according to candidate Trump, put an end to the invasion of our country by illegal immigrants who traveled in caravans designed to overwhelm our border security forces.
“Who’s going to pay for it,” Trump shouted to campaign rally crowds during his 2016 run for office.
“Mexico,” they would shout back adoringly.
“Who is going to pay for the wall,” he would ask again, inciting the crowd to a louder and longer response.
“Mexico,” they would holler, raising the noise-o-meter to extreme levels for what seemed like hours as Trump smiled and nodded his head, enjoying the connection between the candidate and his crowd of enablers.
That was then when Trump barnstormed across the country offering these “bribes”” as part of his “Make America Great Again” flimflam political artistry. “The Wall” was the biggest bribe, particularly his boasting that he would make Mexico pick up the tab for his white elephant of a security project.
“The Wall” is just one of the bribes Trump promised and failed to pay off on from his 2016 campaign. Sure, he’ll boast that he’s made the country more prosperous, stronger and safer than at any point in its history. But anyone who believes that rhetorical rant — with little evidence to support it — and buys a bottle of Trump’s verbal snake oil in 2020 is simply supporting the potential collapse of America’s preeminent spot as a global leader.
Here’s what the “Big Bribes” have produced after nearly three years of Trump tweeting nonstop from the White House or from one of his golf courses.
Clouds loom over the U.S. economy. The healthy and vibrant pulse of our country’s financial engine — brought back to life by former President Barack Obama in the aftermath of “The Great Recession” — is slowing down despite protestations to the contrary from the current White House occupant.
In September, Forbes contributor Raul Elizalde noted that the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSF) estimated the new normal pace for U.S. GDP growth to be between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent. “This is a far cry from the 2.4 percent average of the last 10 years, the 3 percent that once was considered normal and certainly the 4 percent that some thought possible after the massive [Trump engineered] tax cut and spending hike bill of 2017,” Elizalde wrote.
“Private-sector analysts seem to agree. Economists at Deloitte, a consultancy, think the U.S. will grow less than 2 percent in the next few years. While global risks such as the trade war are real, they find ‘the greatest uncertainty in the U.S. economy to be that generated within the nation’s borders,” he added.
This is significantly less than the 5.5 percent achieved in the second quarter of 2014 during the Obama presidency. If you go further back, there were times in the 1950s and 1960s when GDP growth was even higher.
Sorry, Donald, not only were you not responsible for most of the economic success of the past decade — that honor goes to your nemesis, Obama — but the end of the longest economic expansion in our country’s history is about to hit us like a sledgehammer during “Demo Day” on the popular HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” You know the reality program where Chip Gaines tells his wife, JoJo, how much he enjoys ripping the guts out of a house.
Most indicators signal “Demo Days” are coming soon, possibly before the 2020 presidential election season. That is unless you and your wealthy friends prop up the stock market and spin a few more yarns about just how great the numbers look to you.
And no, the Federal Reserve will not bail you out and announce negative interest rates no matter how loudly and brashly you trash Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.
The return to America of overseas operations
“We have the greatest companies anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump said at the White House in August. “They’re all coming back now. They’re coming back to the United States.”
Few U.S. companies have moved significant numbers of workers back to native shores from China and other foreign ports of call. In fact, many companies are relocating operations to parts of Asia other than China as the trade wars initiated by Trump continue to prove almost useless in extending the Obama-created economic growth
Sure, Trump’s tax cuts gave the American economy a boost in 2018. Economic growth climbed to 2.5 percent for the year and fueled an increase in manufacturing jobs. Statistics from the government and other sources, however, don’t support Trump’s bogus claim that his policies are drawing investment and jobs from abroad.
Companies announced plans to relocate just under 145,000 factory jobs to the U.S., according to data and modeling by the Reshoring Initiative, a nonprofit group. That is a record high in the group’s data, which dates back to the late 1980s, but it adds up to less than one month of average job gains in the United States in its decade-long expansion.
It’s important to note that more than half of those jobs — about 82,000 — were announced in 2017, before Trump’s tax cuts took effect.
Also, the Reshoring Initiative data show fewer than 30,000 jobs will relocate back home because of Trump’s tariffs on imported steel, aluminum, solar panels, washing machines and a variety of Chinese goods. Researchers pointed out that Trump’s trade policies, including tariffs, have pushed factory activity not to the United States but to low-cost Asian countries other than China, such as Vietnam.
It’s clear that not only is the “big bribe” of American jobs coming home to help fuel the ongoing economic expansion of the past decade not true, but manufacturing is struggling amid a global slowdown and fallout from the trade war, which Trump has escalated by imposing additional tariffs on Chinese goods.
Another “bribe” bites the dust.
The coal industry would make a massive revival
Well, how to say this gently? Never mind, let’s be blunt about it. There’s been no revival in the coal industry. Miners who pinned their hopes on resuming careers in the hard-scrabble digs of the coal belt are still waiting for mines to reopen and a “big bribe” surge in “more work than you can handle” to materialize.
Fact: More coal-fired power plants closed during Trump’s first two years in office than during Obama’s entire first term, according to Reuters. A total of 23,400 megawatts of coal-fueled generation shut down in 2017 and 2018, according to Fortune magazine earlier this year. From 2009 through 2012, the amount was 14,900.
And 2018 saw the highest level of shutdowns since 2015, according to Fortune.
Despite favorable treatment, coal faces a brutal world. As evidence of climate change’s impact on the world mounts, attitudes toward coal have become increasingly harsh. Even that might not matter except for the accompanying economic realities that Trump continues to ignore.
Renewable energy sources have become increasingly viable because of lower costs. Natural gas remains a favorite fuel for electrical generation because it’s cleaner to burn, cheaper than coal, and easier to turn on and off, giving utilities more flexibility.
Sorry, Trump, coal is a dying industry. Your “big bribe” to the miners will never pay off. They most likely won’t buy into your flimflam rhetoric next year.
The steel industry will rebound greatly
Probably not, since the industry is having a pretty bad year. The price of steel has dropped to $502 per metric ton in September from a high of $835 last year, down nearly 40 percent. That, in turn, has dragged down share prices.
That doesn’t stop Trump from continuing to offer a “big bribe” to the industry and its workers.
“They were doing very poorly when I took office, and now they’re doing very well,” Trump said of American steelmakers earlier this year. “Our steel industry was dying, and now it’s very vibrant.”
Really? Let’s fact check this “big bribe” claim.
Check the stock prices of steel companies. Nucor is off 21 percent, while Steel Dynamics has fallen 36 percent. Industry leader U.S. Steel has seen its stock price lose 64.4 percent of its value year-over-year.
Then the industry was jolted on October 1, when a Louisiana mill closed unexpectedly, resulting in 376 workers losing their jobs overnight. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, blamed the Trump administration’s trade policy.
All those steel customers who built up fat inventories in 2018 in the wake of the Trump tax cut are sitting on them in 2019. Idled mills that came back online when orders were flowing in are now trying to survive in an environment where extra capacity is not particularly helpful.
And to top it off, steel companies’ balance sheets have deteriorated significantly over the past year, scaring away investors.
So Trump’s “big bribe” claim of a revived and vibrant steel industry is just another attempt at selling a key segment of voters a little steel-flavored snake oil.
It was most likely the biggest “bribe” of Trump’s 2016 campaign. He scared millions of Americans into thinking the country was being overrun by illegal immigrants intent on commiting crimes against people and property north of the Rio Grande at a level never before witnessed in American history.
After Mexico made it clear Trump couldn’t bill them for the construction costs of his ill-conceived border security plan, the candidate turned president decided to tap the taxpayer till. How could his people deny him the funds needed to protect their property and lives from the hordes of criminals invading their country?
On-the-books immigration policies that have worked reasonably well for decades were never mentioned. Nope, only the need to build a wall to stem the flow of criminals from central and south America into our country.
First came a 35-day government shutdown — endorsed by Trump — earlier this year to secure $1.375 billion for wall funding. Important note here: The shutdown earned him less than the $1.6 billion Democrats had offered before the government closure. What a negotiator, right?
Then Trump tapped the military budget to help fund his dream of a beautiful wall that will never keep out illegal immigrants. He diverted $3.6 billion in funding targeted for military construction projects to build 175 miles of new or reconstructed barriers along the southern border.
According to the Washington Post Trump’s hanky-panky with taxpayer dollars “will effectively defund 127 military construction projects using emergency authorities.”
So, Trump enablers, let’s try this one more time: Who will pay for the Wall? Shout out your answer now.
“We, the American taxpayer will get stuck with the bill, not Mexico.” Doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Mexico will pay for it” did back in 2016.
Who will pay for the Wall? “I will,” has to be your response. Yep, say it again with gusto!
Who will pay for the Wall? “I will.” Yep, that’s right, your hard-earned tax dollars are going to a construction project that security experts will tell you are ineffective and not needed.
It’s time those voters who believed Trump’s “Big Bribes” in 2016 start asking him to account for all his empty, unkept promises.