Late last year, Carrier, an air conditioner manufacturer, announced its plan to move around 2,000 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. Then-President-elect Donald Trump, who had campaigned on a bold promise that he would convince them to stay, struck a deal with Carrier. In order to keep roughly half of the jobs in the U.S., the state pledged to give Carrier $16 million in taxpayer funding in order to update the plant. (Carrier later said that this money would actually be used for automation.)
Many of the jobs the company has to keep, positions in research and administrative work, were never on the chopping block to begin with. Yet Trump has included them in his figures, claiming to have saved over 1,000 jobs in order to make the deal more impressive than reality.
Having been at the plants for decades, finding a similar job could be next to impossible for many of the workers. To them, it seemed as if Trump had kept his campaign promises, and who could blame them? The middle and lower class are being left behind by big business outsourcing, and Trump was the business candidate who claimed that he alone could get through to the elite.
When Trump visited the Carrier plant to announce the deal on December 1, many workers were thrilled and thought they were spared, as Trump noted that the number saved could get even higher. Chuck Jones, who was President of United Steelworkers Local 1999 that represents the Indianapolis plant but has since retired, criticized Trump for attempting to mislead the public and make it seem as if he had single-handedly saved all of their jobs. (Trump, in response, knocked Jones on Twitter -- an unprecedented attack by a President-elect on a private citizen.)
Jones’ criticism was spot-on. At the end of last month, Carrier sent a letter to the Department of Workforce Development confirming its plan; 338 employees at the Indianapolis plant will lose their jobs by July 20, with a total of 632 losses by the end of the year. To add further injury to injury, the letter shows that many of the workers will be fired a mere three days before Christmas.
Taking stock months after, it appears this deal, like many of Trump’s pledges, was mostly for show. Even if Trump had somehow convinced Carrier to keep all the jobs in Indianapolis and Huntington through sheer deal-making as he said he would before the election, that would not solve the economic crisis that the U.S. or even Indiana alone faces. The domestic issues created by outsourcing and automation cannot be fixed with one deal.
While his theatrics might be easy to spot for some, it is much harder when you are dying for help at any turn. Like Obama in 2008, who also won Indiana, Trump branded himself as the change candidate, which partially explains Trump’s electoral wins in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio.
The Carrier deal exemplified many of the worst parts of conservatism and the Trump administration early on; monetary incentives for corporate billionaires disguised by histrionic assistance for the middle class with a dash of xenophobia. Instead of holding Carrier accountable, they are rewarded for maintaining the status quo while Mexico is used as a scapegoat.
Since the stunt in November, efforts by the administration to lift Americans out of poverty have been grossly overshadowed by controversies like the Muslim ban and the Russia investigation, and any such plan created by Trump would likely focus on personal responsibility rather than the systemic and cyclical issues. With a Trump presidency, it is always lose-lose.