The "Trump Steaks" Economy
Just one bite and you can taste the deception
2016 internet meme featuring actual reviews for Trump Steaks
As the GOP cover-up masquerading as an impeachment trial began in Washington DC, Trump was in Davos doing what he does best: Lying.
He bragged to the crowd at the World Economic Forum that “the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
It’s the kind of fact-free marketing hype Trump has been known for throughout his career, with particular echoes of his failed Trump Steaks brand.
Trump launched his steaks—“The World’s Greatest Steaks” no less—in partnership with The Sharper Image in 2007. The Sharper Image went bankrupt in 2008.
As with many Trump products, Trump Steaks was a brand people bought once and quickly spat out. In most cases, they hid the packaging too, so their spouse wouldn’t call them an idiot for falling for another Trump con.
The exact same thing happens when you bite into Trump’s claims about the economy. As Ben White reports in Politico:
Manufacturing remains in recession. Economies in some swing states lag the stronger national numbers. Businesses are preserving cash instead of deploying it for expansion. And the president has not delivered the “YUGE“ growth numbers he promised on the campaign trail.
In fact, the more you chew on Trump’s claims about the so-called boom we’re living in, the more you realize he’s talking about an economy where, as with Angus beef: “less than 1% qualifies!”
For Farmers, 2019 Was Brutal
Nowhere have Trump’s false promises brought more financial pain than on America’s family farms. For many, Trump’s trade war with China was all it took to push them over the edge. As Dale Moore, executive vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, told NPR in November, 2019:
China was one of our leading agricultural markets that bought over $20 billion, $21 billion of agriculture commodities and products a year. This year, they're going to be around 7.5 billion to 7.8 billion, so that is a tremendous drop.
Moore’s interview coincided with a Farm Bureau report that showed that the number of farms filing for bankruptcy had surged by 24%, the worst levels since “the heights of the the 1980s farm crisis.”
As Modern Farmer reported, Trump’s trade war had made the market for agricultural commodities even more precarious, to the point that any extreme weather events—the Midwest was hit hard by floods in 2019—could be enough to put a small farm out of business.
Wisconsin’s Worst Year Ever
In Wisconsin, the dairy industry was hit especially hard. 818 farms went out of business, the most bankruptcies ever in a single year.
But what about the bailouts, you ask? Didn’t Trump borrow $28 billion from China (or wherever) to bring an extra-large heaping of socialism to rural America?
Bailouts for the Rich
As the Environmental Working Group’s AgMag reported, Trump’s massive bailouts for American farmers weren’t enough to save many small family farms:
Farm bailout payments designed to offset the impacts of President’s Trump’s trade war have overwhelmingly flowed to the largest and most successful farmers
As with the Trump tax cuts, the Trump bailouts were little more than a giveaway to the already-rich, leaving the majority who actually needed the cash with peanuts:
The top 1 percent of MFP recipients received, on average, $183,331. The bottom 80 percent received, on average, less than $5,000.
Now let’s check in with factory workers to see how well they’re doing in the midst of Trump’s all-time-greatest-never-seen-anything-like-it economic boom.
Manufacturing Is in a Recession
Trump made his pledge to bring back manufacturing jobs a cornerstone of his economic vision. He told Michigan workers that his election would be “a victory for the wage-earner, the factory worker, a victory for the everyday citizen.”
To quote the reviews for Trump Steaks, the reality of what Trump served up is “tasteless and mealy,” if not downright “awful.”
To quote Politico’s Ben White again:
U.S. manufacturing fell into recession for all of 2019, according to data from the Federal Reserve, with industrial production dropping 1.3 percent for the year — a sore spot for a president who promised his tough approach to trade would return robust factory growth to the American heartland. Industrial production dropped 0.3 percent in December alone.
Trump Tariffs, Steel Layoffs
For steel workers, Trump’s promises have been just as empty as they were for farmers and factory workers. As the Detroit Free Press reported in December:
President Donald Trump told an audience of Pennsylvania union workers last August that his 25% tariff on steel imports was reinvigorating the country's steel industry, and leading companies such as U.S. Steel to expand.
The reality was far different. In December U.S. Steel announced it was laying off 1,545 workers at its Great Lakes Works production plants in Michigan.
Trump Digs Coal, Mines Go Bankrupt
Coal miners who believed Trump’s promises may also be saying “never again” in 2020. In October 2019, Murray Energy became the 8th coal mining company of the year to declare bankruptcy. As The New York Times reported:
Murray, the nation’s largest privately held coal company, has nearly 7,000 employees and operates 17 mines in six states across Appalachia and the South as well as two mines in Colombia. It produces more than 70 million tons of coal annually.
The collapse of Murray Energy came despite the fact that CEO Robert Murray was a big Trump donor who, according to The Times, gave Trump a wish list for the coal industry that included:
Shaving regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and ozone and mine safety, along with cutting the staff at the Environmental Protection Agency by at least 50 percent. Several of the suggestions were adopted.
So not only were the coal jobs not saved, the rest of us got some bonus corporate pollution out of the deal.
Which only highlights Trump’s other Big Lie at Davos—that “The United States has among the cleanest air and drinking water on Earth.”
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