Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump promised White America a bridge over Death Valley, built in the event of catastrophic flooding. And White America not only bought that bridge, they paid extra for it and thanked him for his foresight.
This, more than anything, marked the difference between how liberals and conservatives viewed their respective candidates. Liberals were wary of Hillary and her promises and a great many of them weren’t looking towards her to change the world — most wanted her to keep things the way they were. Quiet a few conservatives devoured everything Trump said with almost religious reverence, because they wanted change.
That white Americans, ostensibly self-proclaimed “red-blood Americans” who lived through a Red Scare in the 1950s and 60s, could let themselves get played like a fiddle by the sock puppet for a former KGB-operative cum Russian neo-Tzar is a topic for a different discussion. The focus of this piece is a point that comes up repeatedly in the various postmortems of the election: that white people voted for Trump because Trump promised their jobs back.
Spoiler: they aren’t coming back, and he lied to you.
No longer as competitive
Trump stood in front of coal miners in the hard-pressed regions of Appalachia and told them that he would bring back coal, saying, “Obama has decimated the coal industry, decimated it, and we’re going to bring the coal industry back folks. We’re going to bring it back. Thank you.”
This is one of the reasons people in these parts of the country voted for him. He was going to give them a purpose, and make them feel like they’re accomplishing something again.
Except he can’t. And it’s not just onerous environmental regulations that insure we have clear air and water that are keeping coal from flourishing again; it’s two terms that you need to be familiar with: technology and the market.
The market isn’t there. Coal isn’t as cheap as natural gas is, and removing the EPA regulations isn’t going to make coal any cheaper:
Big picture, I would imagine the U.S. is slower to phase out coal than a president who would have retained the Clean Power Plan. I think coal power is not coming back in this country regardless of what regulatory changes a President Trump is going to make. Economically, it is no longer as competitive as it used to be.
These are basic market forces — you know, that “capitalism” conservatives claim to respect so much. Furthermore, the gains made in clean energy over the last decade have put solar and wind in such a position that even if a Trump administration does remove the solar investment tax credit, they aren’t stopping.
Nor should they since everyone benefits from clean energy. You can produce an unfathomable amount of power with solar technology since there’s a nuclear furnace set to provide us with energy for another billion or so years. Meanwhile, with coal, there’s about 250 years left — and that’s providing our energy consumption doesn’t increase, which it has been for the last 100 or so years.
Coal is unsustainable as an energy resource. The faster we move away from it, the better off our technological civilization will become. On some level, we all know this, and the price of natural gas compared to coal is proof — and that’s to say nothing of how renewables are crushing those energy sources.
Coal was why people in the Appalachia region voted for Trump, but in the Midwest, it was a different story. One word shape the entire perception of the Clinton campaign: NAFTA.
Now, I’ll be the last to defend NAFTA. That trade agreement was explicitly designed to screw over everyone who wasn’t rich, and that includes the workers in the developing world. The TPP is another example of a trade agreement in a similar vein, and I’ve always been sharply critical of President Obama for it.
But let’s look at this seriously: even considering we somehow get out of NAFTA, manufacturing engineering is not coming back. Even if Trump does institute a tariff — and there’s a good chance that the wealthy and powerful oligarchs who run the show will only let that happen over their dead bodies — and forces those businesses to come back, you’re not going to see employment like you saw in the 1950s and 1960s. Why?
Because of technology and the market.
Specifically, 3D printing, also called “additive manufacturing,” with a side of robotics and computerization. The factory of the future won’t employ untrained, unskilled labor straight out of high school.
If you think, “oh, well, that’s just a technological fad; it’ll eventually go away and things will return to normal,” let me disabuse you of that notion: the additive manufacturing business boomed 25% in 2015, and grew to almost $5.1 billion dollars. By 2018, it’s expected to exceed $12.8 billion dollars, and as of 2014, only 33% of businesses didn’t own a 3D printer. And while these devices are used mostly for prototyping, product development, and innovation, as the technology changes, the role will change, too. There are already 3D printers capable of printing a device with multiple moving parts.
Like renewable energy, this industry is not going away so we can do things like we used to.
And don’t even get me started on the useless idea that deporting millions of undocumented immigrants is going to free up worthwhile jobs. That’ll destroy the economy before it fixes it:
The authors of the paper, Ben Gitis and Jacqueline Varas, said that based on an earlier American Action Forum study, the direct costs of dramatically expanding immigration-enforcement agencies and courts to deport roughly 11 million people would already cost the US government an estimated $400 billion to $600 billion.
It was a center to right leaning think tank that produced this paper, not some bleeding-heart liberal group. And it’s pure crunch; I’m not talking about the human side of it, which certainly needs to be discussed.
Your jobs are gone.
Those promises that Trump made are empty promises at best, and outright lies at worst. I live in one of the most hard-pressed regions of the country. I’m as sick of the elites as anyone else; I’m a blue collar socialist, like men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder and fought for worker’s rights and the right to unionize.
RELATED: Blue Collar Rust Belt Belt Workers Line Up To Return This Defective Trump Thing They Bought
Speaking strictly to my fellow Midwestern inhabitants who voted for Trump: You put your hope in the hands of a con artist, and you will be disappointed at best. I understand. I’ve fallen for scams before; when you’re hopeless, you look for anything to latch onto. But the world has truly left you behind, and digging your heels into the dirt and screaming for it to stop isn’t going to make it turn around and apologize.
Feature image via Wikimedia Commons