Sunday, December 9, 2018
The quick answer: Not anytime soon.
First some background.
The headline was triggered by the invitation to President Donald Trump to tour several General Motors manufacturing facilities in the U.S. that could be on the chopping block, including the car assembly plant in Lordstown.
The invitation, in the form of a letter signed by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and four other members of Congress, comes on the heels of GM’s decision to idle plants in Lordstown; Detroit, Hamtramck, Brownstown and Warren, Mich.; and Baltimore, Md.
“This idling will impact over 14,000 workers, including the layoff of 3,300 production workers in the United States and 2,500 in Canada, and another 8,000 salaried employees,” the letter said.
It was signed by Ryan and Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, D-9th; Joyce Beatty of Columbus, D-3rd; and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Mich., D-12th. It was also signed by Congressman-elect Andy Levin of Bloomfield, Mich., D-9th.
It’s unlikely Republican Trump will jump at the idea of visiting communities that will soon be hard-hit economically – especially at the invitation of a bunch of Democrats.
He will view it as a political trap.
After all, during his 2016 campaign for president, he promised to revive the American auto industry by forcing GM, Chrysler and Ford to close plants abroad and return production to the U.S.
Indeed, that promise, along with his public pledge to reopen the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River, endeared him to a large number of voters in the predominantly Democratic Mahoning Valley.
Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in heavily Democratic Trumbull County and came close to carrying Democratic stronghold Mahoning County.
It’s noteworthy that Trump, the billionaire real-estate developer from New York City who had never run for elected office before, was supported by 40 percent of the members of UAW Local 1112 at the Lordstown plant.
His “America First” campaign struck a chord with blue-collar residents of this region, especially white males.
It’s not a stretch to conclude that these were the same voters who refused to support Democratic President Barack Obama in his re-election bid in 2012, even though Obama, along with Democrats in Congress, saved their jobs.
The federal bailout of GM and Chrysler prevented the total financial collapse of the giant automakers. As a result, workers at the Lordstown assembly plant kept their high-paying positions.
In the 2016 election, these same autoworkers chose Trump over Democrat Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, ex-U.S. senator from New York and ex-U.S. secretary of state.
Hillary Clinton not only supported the bailout of GM and Chrysler, but made it clear she would ensure that the companies lived up to their obligations to American taxpayers and the autoworkers.
By contrast, Trump opposed the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler and said bankruptcy would have been good for the two companies. They would have emerged smaller, but stronger financially, the businessman said. Several of his companies filed for bankruptcy, which he argued was simply the cost of doing business.
But none of that mattered to his supporters in the Mahoning Valley who were swayed by his promise to revive heavy manufacturing in this country and “Make America Great Again.”
Last week in this space, reference was made (for the umpteenth time) to Trump’s comments last year about this region during a political rally in the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown.
“I rode through your beautiful roads coming from the airport, and I was looking at some of those big, once incredible job-producing factories, and my wife, Melania, said, ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘Those jobs have left Ohio.’”
And the president then made this “promise” to 7,000 or so supporters who jammed the center:
“They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house … Do not sell it. We’re going to get those values up. We’re going to get those jobs coming back, and we’re going to fill up those factories or rip them down and build brand new ones. It’s going to happen.”
More than a year later, there isn’t a hint of a massive steel mill rising from the ashes of the Valley’s manufacturing past.
As for his pledge to revive the auto industry, Trump was uncharacteristically silent in January 2017 when more than 1,000 workers at the Lordstown plant lost their jobs when the third shift was eliminated.
The company said the cutbacks were necessary because demand for the once top-selling Chevrolet Cruze was declining. This past summer, GM eliminated the second shift, with another 1,000-plus workers losing their jobs.
Two weeks ago, company chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra announced that production of the Cruze would end in March. There isn’t another product to take its place.
That’s why Trump will not visit the Valley and tour the massive assembly complex in Lordstown. There’s no way he can avoid blame for what has occurred.
After all, GM is sitting on billions of dollars in cash as a result of the massive corporate tax cuts pushed through by Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.
Yet, the company is slashing more than 14,000 jobs.
The only way the president of United States will show his face in the Mahoning Valley between now and March is if he’s able to announce that GM has agreed to assign a new product to its Lordstown assembly plant.
Or, if he’s able to announce that billionaire Elon Musk is willing to buy the Lordstown complex to build his electric Tesla car.
Musk said last week he would be interested in taking over some of the plants GM may shut down.