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Dec 24, 2017

On Trump, Ford, and jobs

I've been having a series of arguments with a friend lately. We tend disagree on a lot of things ideologically, which is more fun that you might think. And the other night, he made a case for Donald Trump forcing Ford not to move production of the Focus to Mexico as evidence of his (Trump's) beneficence towards the American people.

Since my knee-jerk reaction to just about everything this friend says is to swing to the far opposite of his argument, I claimed that it was a poor business decision to keep factory jobs in America, for America's sake.

I was thinking of the decision between creating jobs at home v. creating them abroad in terms of nationalism v. globalism. So much of today's discussion of jobs creation revolves around that, that it didn't occur to me any other way. Of course fostering international cooperation should be encouraged. Of course we ought to support the flow of goods across borders, since it generates a ton of tax revenue for governments, which, ideally, are supposed to represent the interests of the public when no one else will (although that hasn't been accurate, lately).

But my friend pointed out that the alternative to creating jobs in America is to send them to the poorly-remunerated markets of China, Southeast Asia, or wherever else lots can be had for very little, at the cost of people's humanity. People want more stuff, and if that stuff isn't made by Americans guaranteed a minimum wage, it'll be made by people with no such guarantees.

Which sort of stopped me in my tracks. I sat there with my mouth agape and my eyes drifting to opposite corners of the room. I don't remember what I said to get myself out of there, but we didn't return to the topic.

On the bus ride home, I gave it some thought.

And look. It's good to keep jobs in America. Or generate new jobs in America. But that's not because America deserves jobs for the sake of America, because it's the greatest country on earth, &c. &c.

(Although everyone who wants to work should have the right to work. "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.")

It's good to keep jobs in America because Americans will demand payment closer to what the value of the product is worth. Because a product can be sold in America for $100 but the sweatshop laborer who made it will see less than $1 of its sale; but an American will demand $9.25/hour or whatever it is, and so see more of the value of the product they made returned to them.

Because doing an easily outsourceable job in America guarantees that the worker will see more of the true value of their labor.

Because it's a step further away from the modern slavery of capitalism--of trying to extract every ounce of capital from a human that you can.

And for that reason, I commend Donald Trump, and I commend Ford, for taking a stand on wages and closing the gap between those who produce, and those who own the means of production.

Except...

It turns out that Ford never intended to bring those Focus jobs to America. After the Trump thing, they invested some of what they were going to invest in a new Mexican factory in a Detroit factory instead, and planned on spending the rest on moving Focus production to an existing factory in Mexico ("to improve company profitability").

But in the end they just sent those Focus manufacturing jobs to China.

Donald Trump had no comment.