Donald Trump is in Michigan today, sharing his two-dimensional worldview at the Detroit Economic Club. As Trump returns to the Motor City, it’s worth recalling just how little he thinks of Detroit, Michigan autoworkers, and the companies that employ them.
First, who can forget what Trump said the last time he was here. He essentially told Michigan autoworkers, “You make too much money“:
He said U.S. automakers could shift production away from Michigan to communities where autoworkers would make less. “You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less,” Trump said. “We can do the rotation in the United States — it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.”
He said that after Michigan “loses a couple of plants — all of sudden you’ll make good deals in your own area.”
This economic sage appears to think that unionized autoworkers work for less in one part of the country than they do anywhere else. But the fact that he doesn’t have a clue about how the labor market works isn’t the most amazing part of this. The most amazing part is that the man that wants to “make America great again” thinks Detroit autoworkers ought to be pushed so far to the brink that they will crawl back to the auto companies on their hands and knees, begging for their jobs back at whatever pay these corporations feel like paying them.
Here’s another fun fact about Donald Trump: Like Mitt Romney during the 2014, Trump thinks it might have been just fine if America’s domestic automakers had been left to go bankrupt:
Asked if President Obama showed leadership in the 2008/2009 bailout of the major auto companies, Trump meandered through an answer that left him without a position.
“You could have let it go, and rebuilt itself, through the free enterprise system,” said Trump. “You could have let it go bankrupt, frankly, and rebuilt itself, and a lot of people felt it should happen. Or you could have done it the way it went. I could have done it either way. Either way would have been acceptable. I think you would have wound up in the same place.”
He told The Detroit News that “it would have been a free-market deal.”
Of course this is all, to quote Vice President Joe Biden, malarkey. Justin Hyde, writing for Yahoo! Auto during the last cycle, explains why letting Detroit automakers go bankrupt would have been a catastrophe and the idea that they would have been fine is absurd:
[Romney:] “The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.”
The crux of Romney’s argument: If Obama had not acted, private companies would have stepped in and run a “managed bankruptcy.” What this ignores is that in the fall of 2008, before Obama was even sworn in, no one on Wall Street or anywhere else was willing to lend GM and Chrysler a penny — let alone the $81 billion they and their financial arms eventually needed.
Both companies’ bankruptcies required money on a scale not seen in legal history. Unlike airlines, which can keep running with much smaller short-term loans while they restructure, automakers need massive amounts of up-front capital to pay suppliers and workers while they build cars; their finance companies need even more to keep making car loans that can bring in revenues. The potential damage wasn’t just layoffs; Chrysler executives testified on the first day of bankruptcy that without immediate cash the company risked destroying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment.
Even after Obama took office, GM and Chrysler searched frantically for paths to avoid bankruptcy, including a possible merger. Chrysler held a one-week garage sale of its assets in February 2009, inviting anyone with enough money to bid for parts of the company. No one bit.
It’s not just Donald Trump who is clueless about the economic implosion that was avoided thanks to the efforts of the Obama administration. Trump’s running mate Mike Pence voted against the loans that kept GM and Chrysler afloat. Here’s what Pence told the audience at the Detroit Economic Club in November of 2010:
[E]ven though I am proud of the American automotive tradition and Indiana’s ongoing role it, I even opposed bailing out GM and Chrysler. While the administration has been busy making the point that GM is on the rebound and taxpayers are being repaid, most Americans know that it still would have been better if GM had gone through an orderly reorganization bankruptcy without taxpayer support. Taxpayer funded bailouts are no substitute for economic policies that will create real consumer demand. I have no doubt that American automakers and autoworkers can compete and win in a growing American economy.
Pence is as clueless as Trump when it comes to the economic realities that led to the automaker bailout.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow has a few choice words for Donald Trump as he spends the day in Michigan:
Donald Trump talks a good game, but if you look at his actual record, he’s proven to be terrible for Michigan families and businesses. Instead of making and growing things in this country, Trump chose to make his ties in China and his suits in Mexico. He would have let the auto industry go bankrupt, said wages are ‘too high,’ and even failed to pay small business owners who provided goods and services to his casinos.
People in Michigan deserve better. Hillary Clinton stood with us to support the American auto industry and her 100-days Jobs Plan looks like it was written for Michigan! She is laser-focused on strengthening manufacturing, small business growth, clean energy innovation and rebuilding our infrastructure. All of which will create good-paying jobs in Michigan!
Congressman Dan Kildee has a message for Trump, as well:
Donald Trump does not represent Michigan values or the interests of our hardworking people. Trump may say a lot of things that sound nice, but if you look at his actual record, he has never been on the side of Michigan families. Trump has always put Trump first — at the expense of working class people.
While Trump claims he wants to ‘make America great’, he bet against American workers and made his own clothing line overseas in China. If Trump had his way, he would have also let the auto industry go bankrupt, which would have cost our state hundreds of thousands of jobs. With such a disastrous failed business record, it is no wonder that a vast majority of Michiganders see him as unfit to be president.
Detroit is a town that’s been down on its luck for a long time. But, thanks to the efforts of the Obama administration, working in partnership with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the automotive industry here did not collapse and is now highly profitable once again, employing Michiganders and autoworkers across the country.
Donald Trump may want autoworkers groveling for their jobs, begging to work for any wage but Michigan workers are better than that and have more dignity than Trump gives them credit for.
And no amount of Donald Trump bullying will ever change that.