By Doug Livingston
Beacon Journal staff writer
Taking the stage a half-hour ahead of schedule – with lined-up supporters still waiting to get in – Donald Trump wasted no time Monday night reminding Ohio of the good-paying factory jobs it’s missing.
During a campaign rally inside James A. Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron, the Republican presidential candidate picked a specific date to talk about the industry that once was: 1994, the year Bill Clinton signed the North America Free Trade Agreement that eased the sale of goods among Mexico, the United States and Canada.
With no mention of the technological advances that have aided in the loss of thousands of high-paying factory jobs, Trump went on the attack in a city once driven by the rubber industry.
“Hillary Clinton backed her husband’s NAFTA, maybe the worst trade deal made anywhere in the world,” Trump told the crowd of more than 5,000, using his unvarnished vernacular while reading from a teleprompter.
“Ohio and the Akron area have lost nearly one-third of the manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. And there are companies right now negotiating to leave. But we’ll stop them,” Trump said, promising to renegotiate trade deals long backed by Republicans.
Trump then took the usual speech route, blasting his Democratic rival for mishandling emails when she ran the state department and accusing the Clinton Foundation of nefarious activity.
He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, reverse President Barack Obama’s “anti-energy regulations” to lower energy bills and bring coal jobs back to the poorest corner of Ohio and give low-income minorities a better future by restoring law and order in America, boosting charter schools (which have underperformed in Ohio) and implementing merit pay for teachers.
“What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance,” Trump said, appealing specifically to poor Latino and black voters, of which there were few in the arena.
Thousands of feet stomped on the risers, and red “Make America Great Again” signs fluttered on the basketball court floor as Trump stood with his head cocked back.
“It’s going to be America first,” he said.
BLAME ON TRADE
Trump used the usual jobs figures to hang the loss of American factory jobs solely on global competition.
He told the crowd of mostly white, middle-aged supporters that one-third of their factory jobs have disappeared since NAFTA. The law went into effect in 1994.
But his math is off, even if other reasons for the job losses, like automation and higher gas prices in the mid 2000s (which depressed car and especially truck sales), are ignored.
Ohio’s goods producing jobs, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, actually increased 10 percent in first six years of NAFTA, from 1.16 million in to 1.29 million.
The long dive began in 2000 and accelerated through 2008 as Detroit’s three largest car makers – GM, Chrysler and Ford – announced layoffs, factory closings and bankruptcies, forcing the rubber and steel companies that fed them parts and materials to trim by yet more manufacturing jobs to meet the lesser demand.
By 2010 Ohio had 765,200 jobs left, down 34 percent since NAFTA, and even further down from the 2000 peak. Many goods producing jobs have returned since the Great Recession. As of June 2016, employment in the industry was 923,900, down 20 percent – not 33 percent – since NAFTA became law.
Trump made a strong pitch for Latino and African Americans left behind by what he called failed Democratic policies.
“Since 2009, another 2 million Latinos have fallen into poverty,” Trump said.
That’s true. But there are millions more Latinos in America today. Politifact clarified the claim more than a month ago, using Census Data to show that the poverty rate among Hispanics has barely budged under Obama, climbing from 23.2 percent in 2008 and 23.6 percent in 2014.
“Nearly four in 10 African-American children live in poverty,” he said, rightly so, according to Kids Count and data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Trump also made an emotional appeal for law and order, calling for an end to the violence that plagues inordinately befalls on minority communities.
“You’ll be able to walk down the street without being shot,” Trump promised as president. “Right now, you walk down the street and you get shot.”
Trump didn’t forget about the police.
“I believe that safety is a right that belongs to all Americans,” he said. “And I want to take this opportunity to thank the law enforcement and police officials that are here tonight and all across the country for their sacrifice in these dangerous times.”
Ahead of the rally at UA, Trump and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani courted members of the Akron and Ohio chapters of the Fraternal Order of Police, which have not yet recommended either presidential candidate for the national organization’s endorsement.
“It was a very informal roundtable discussion of active and retired police officer from around he state,” Akron chapter president Frank Williams said of the 20 minute gathering at the local lodge in South Akron.
Trump told FOP members that he would do what he could to increase police staffing levels, restore the use of military surplus and “be a cheerleader” for cops who often are on trial in the media for the shooting of unarmed black men.
“The meeting should not be construed as an endorsement,” Williams said. “Any candidate who approaches us has always been afforded a meeting. He approached us. I look forward to Hillary Clinton reaching out to us in the near future.”
Trump also squeezed in an interview with Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly between the FOP meeting and the UA rally.
BUILDING THE WALL
Trump stayed true to his controversial promise to seal the border along Mexico.
“We need to protect American jobs. We need to protect American safety,” Trump said as the crowd chanted “USA.”
“We’re going to build the wall, folks,” he said above the chant, which erupted into jubilant cheers. “Don’t worry, we’re going to build the wall. That wall will go up so fast your head will spin. And you’ll say he meant it. And you know what else, Mexico is going to pay for it.”