This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, January 18, 2017:
President-elect Donald Trump has mercilessly hammered American companies with overseas operations, and the message is coming through loud and clear: bring them back, keep them here, or pay dearly once he is in office.
Ford changed its plans, cancelling a project in Mexico and expanding a facility here. Fiat did the same as did Toyota. Sprint’s plans to add new jobs coupled with Lockheed Martin’s willingness to work with Mr. Trump even before he is president all reflect the new reality: Trump plans to keep his campaign promises and create jobs here.
What makes the recent announcements by General Motors and Walmart suspicious is that they not only are timed to appear just before the inauguration, but they also reflect plans that were in place many months before Trump was elected. It just seems politically propitious to make those announcements now.
For example, take Walmart. It announced earlier this week that it would be making new capital investments approaching $7 billion as it renovates and expands some 60 of its existing stores. This would result in the hiring of 24,000 temp jobs to do the renos, along with 10,000 more permanent jobs to staff them afterwards. In addition, Walmart reiterated its promise made in 2013 that it would be buying $250 billion of American-made goods over the next ten years, resulting, said the company, in the creation of a million new jobs here. It also trumpeted the news that three of its major suppliers have already moved their foreign manufacturing facilities back to the US, creating more jobs.
The company’s announcement was revealing: “With a presence in thousands of communities and a vast supplier network, we know we play an important role in supporting and creating American jobs.” That message was from Walmart’s mouth to Trump’s ears.
The backstory is that these new jobs make up for only part of the nearly 20,000 jobs cut back in 2015 when it closed 154 of its American stores and reorganized its management staff in Bentonville.
The announcement from General Motors, which has been one of Trump’s favorite targets, also appears suspiciously political. Trump ramped up pressure on the company during his press conference last week when he said, “I hope that General Motors will be following. And I think they will be.” On Monday, the company announced plans to invest at least $1 billion in several of its factories, potentially creating 1,000 new jobs.
Previously, Ford, Fiat, and Toyota announced plans to create more than 12,000 jobs in response to Trump’s pressure. But GM’s spokesman Craig Glidden said the announcement wasn’t a response to any of that pressure, but said, “This is something we’ve been undertaking for some period of time.” But then he added: “It’s really getting our story told in a way that is I think complete and fulsome.” He might have added “timely” as well.
Left out of GM’s announcement was any mention that the company planned more than 3,000 layoffs set to begin later this month as sales of its smaller models have disappointed.
The only “new jobs” announcement that appeared to be legitimate came from Jeff Bezos’s Amazon. It said it planned to hire 100,000 new people over the next 18 months, reflecting the company’s continuing remarkable growth. Said Bezos: “These jobs are not just in our Seattle headquarters or in Silicon Valley, they’re in our customer service network, fulfillment centers, and other facilities through the country.”
Nothing was said about Trump’s repeated unhappiness about Bezos, Amazon, and theWashington Post. In one interview, Trump said:
The Post is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder taxwise. He’s using the Washington Post for power so that politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.
In another, Trump said:
If I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.
Instead, following the announcement from Amazon, Trump took credit for it. Said Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer: “This announcement was made after the president-elect met with heads of several other tech companies and urged them to keep their jobs and production inside the United States. The president-elect was pleased to have played a role in that decision by Amazon.”
And so, no doubt, was Mr. Bezos. As a candidate, Trump was merely an annoyance to Bezos – a campaign threat only. As president, the threat is real. Happily, Bezos owns a company that is growing, with job growth that is legitimate and not hiding job losses elsewhere. Said James Cakmak, an equity research analyst: “The bottom line is they [Amazon] were going to create the jobs anyway, but it’s the messaging that has changed. [The company’s announcement] appears to calibrate to current political sensitivities.”
For the others, including Ford, Carrier, Toyota, Fiat, GM, Walmart, Lockheed Martin, et al, it’s political maneuvering designed to stay on Mr. Trump’s good side and out of his line of fire.
The Wall Street Journal: Wal-Mart Touts Plan to Create U.S. Jobs, in Nod to Trump
Money.CNN.com: Walmart adding 10,000 U.S. jobs
Money.CNN.com: Amazon says it will create 100,000 U.S. jobs
The Wall Street Journal: General Motors Plans at Least $1 Billion in Fresh U.S. Investment