Trump opened an Apple plant? Here’s what’s rotten at the core of that claim | John L. Micek

November 29, 2019 6:30 am

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You could be forgiven for missing it in the build-up to Thanksgiving and the blizzard of impeachment news, but America’s fact-challenged chief executive was up to some old tricks this week.

At a rally in Florida, Trump continued to peddle a false narrative that he opened an Apple plant in Texas. As the Associated Press and other outlets have reported, Trump actually visited a factory in Austin on Nov. 20 that’s been making the Mac Pro for Apple since 2013.

Nonetheless, Trump has continued to perpetuate the story, tweeting on the day of his visit that “Today, I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high-paying jobs back to America.”

As the AP’s story makes clear, however, Apple announced in “September that it would continue having the Mac Pro line made in Austin after the Trump administration agreed to waive tariffs on certain computer parts from China. It said on the day of his trip that it has started construction of its new campus in the city.”

Which is not the same, even by a long shot, as opening a new factory in Austin.

But Trump’s tall tale masks something  — and you’ll pardon the pun – rotten at the core about his ongoing claims that he’s rejuvenated American manufacturing. And no amount of shine he tries to put on the Apple, can change that.

“Last year was the best year for American Manufacturing job growth since 1997, or 21 years,” Trump tweeted back in January. “The previous administration said manufacturing will not come back to the U.S. ‘You would need a magic wand.’ I guess I found the MAGIC WAND – and it is only getting better!”

Yes, it’s true that manufacturing did enjoy a growth spurt during the opening months of Trump’s presidency. But, as CNBC reports, thanks to the administration’s ongoing trade war, that advantage has pretty much evaporated.

And states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which were key to Trump’s 2016 victory, have borne the brunt of it.

Manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania have shrunk steadily, according to WITF-FM, an NPR affiliate in Harrisburg.

In January, a total of 569,800 people worked in manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, WITF-FM reported, citing federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That tally shrunk by 8,400 jobs by July, and continued to decrease into September, the data showed, to about 561,700 jobs.

The picture is much the same in Ohio and Michigan, two Obama states that flipped to Trump in 2016. The Rust Belt States are now more than “six months into a steady manufacturing job decline. Indiana also has fewer factory jobs than it did in the same period of 2018,” Newsweek reported.

As Crain’s Chicago Business reported recently, manufacturing jobs are now the smallest share of the economy in 72 years.

Manufacturing comprised just 11 percent of GDP in the second quarter, the smallest share since 1947, and down from the previous quarter, Crain’s reported, citing U.S. Commerce Department data. In comparison, real estate made up 13.4 percent of GDP; 12.8 percent for professional and business services and 12.3 percent for governments, Crain’s reported.

And that has long-term implications – both political and economic, as Democrats work to win back the states that Trump flipped just three years ago.

In addition to the job losses in Pennsylvania, Ohio has lost 2,400 factory jobs, while employers in West Virginia cut 400 mining jobs – despite Trump’s claims that he’s saved the shrinking industry, the Associated Press reported.

“I don’t think that Ohio is just a lock in the Republican’s column, nor do I think that blue-collar voters are settled on who they’re likely to select,” Robert Alexander, a political scientist at Ohio Northern University, told the AP in October. “There is a lot of economic angst still in the state.”

An October poll by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. uncovered a similar sentiment. While voters felt optimistic about their personal finances, only one in three respondents said the country was headed in the right direction. And only a third of respondents said Trump was doing a “good” or “excellent” job as president.

An earlier Franklin & Marshall poll found that same number (36 percent) said Trump deserved re-election, compared to 61 percent who believed it was time to change horse.

Nonetheless, Trump’s loyalists have parroted the White House’s line.

“Our economy is in far better shape than it was four years ago,” Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas said during a recent lunchtime appearance before a mixed crowd of policymakers and business leaders. “6.5 million jobs have been created under President Trump, 500,000 in the manufacturing industry, which was an industry that most people thought was done and dead in this country and never to be revived.”

Trump repeated the same claim about manufacturing during a speech to the Economic Club of New York, this time inflating the number of new manufacturing jobs to 600,000 positions — which is 25 percent more than the actual figure, according to a New York Times fact-check.

Given the White House’s current troubles, it’s no wonder that Trump’s followers are trying to put the best face they can on the manufacturing picture.

And in the key states where workers have felt the pinch the most, you might not blame voters for once again changing their minds.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.