In a former life, my span of responsibility was so weirdly far-flung that when people asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them that I was in charge of saving Illinois manufacturing. And while that's a wee bit of an exaggeration, it is entirely fair to say that working on every aspect of saving Illinois manufacturing took up most of my time and energy and the time, energy and budget of my tiny staff.
So believe me when I tell that even though I was involuntarily retired from the field of battle, my antennae is still highly attuned to items in the news about the struggles of the Rust Belt economy: outsourcing, manufacturing, skills training, the need to retool high schools and community colleges and the various federal, state and local policies and initiatives designed to get at these large and complex problems.
(Also every time the subject pops up within earshot, my darling wife pipes up with "Honey, they're talking about your stuff again!")
This is why I can tell you that this idea that "better messaging" to the white working class is somehow the royal road back to political majorities for the Democratic party is nonsense. Sure, Democrats always need to work on speaking like mortal human beings and progressives in general suffer from an inexplicable inability to kill the fucking bunny even with all the claws and fangs at their disposal:
But messaging itself is not the problem. The media is the problem. And since, as the man said, the medium is the message, until we start taking on the media as Public Enemy #1, we're going to go right on losing.
This is shaping up to be a long post because sometimes I feel the need to drive a point home using a great big hammer, so if you want to scroll on down, be my guest. But before you move along, my premise is fairly easy to summarize:
- For a variety if reasons, white working class Americans have been taking a pounding since the late 1970s. And for a different variety of reasons, a disturbingly high number number of white working class Americans keep voting for the people that fuck them over.
- Judging by policy statements made, resources allocated, attention paid and political capitol spent, it's quite likely that history will judge the Obama Administration to have been the most consistently pro-manufacturing administration since Eisenhower. In fact, outside of health care (and turkey pardons), I would wager a penny and a fiddle of gold that in the last eight years the Obama administration put more effort into promoting American manufacturing than into any other domestic policy priority.
- If you are a member of the general public, unless you made an extra special effort to inform yourself, you are blissfully unaware of any of this.
- If you are blissfully unaware of any of this, it is not because the Obama Administration failed to talk it up at every single opportunity, but because over the last eight years the American political media collectively decided that instead of boring-ass stories about what the Democratic party has been trying to do to improve the lives and futures of the working class Americans, what you needed to hear were lively fairy tales about Birth Certificates and Death Panels. Email servers and Benghaaaazi. A Republican rebranding scam called the "Tea Party". Instead of stories about the Caucus Room Conspiracy and Republican sabotage and sedition, you needed to hear endlessly, plaintive cries from all the usual Beltway hacks about how Barack Obama was refusing to lead!
So, as the late, great Al Smith used to say, let's take a look at the record...
I have spent a couple of days going over hundreds of White House press releases, public statements, sections of each of President Obama's State of the Union addresses, etc. all on the subject of American manufacturing. This is a small, representative sample from that gargantuan pile, with emphasis added by me as the spirit moves me.
Remarks of President Barack Obama's address to Joint Session of Congress, Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 (one month after his inauguration.
That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm...
From "New Progress in a Resurgent American Manufacturing Sector" on October 06, 2016 -- Two months ago:
“Each year, hundreds of thousands of people observe this day by attending open houses, public tours, and career workshops. As we mark 5 years since the first Manufacturing Day, we must inspire the next generation of workers and innovators to seek careers in manufacturing. Let us continue working to strengthen and expand the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow and ensure that opportunity for all is something we can keep making in America for generations to come.” - President Obama, October 6, 2016U.S. manufacturing is making a comeback, with more than 800,000 new jobs added since the sector turned the corner after the Great Recession in 2010. For the last four years in a row, global CEOs have named the United States the best place to make and invest, and new capital investment is flowing in to a broad range of manufacturing technologies.Tomorrow, on the fifth-annual Manufacturing Day, we mark an Administration-long focus on the technologies and skills that are the foundation of the most dynamic manufacturing sector in the world. The President is proclaiming October 7 as National Manufacturing Day to celebrate Made in America and renew his commitment to this vibrant sector.In support of Manufacturing Day, thousands of U.S. manufacturers are expected to host factory tours, hackathons, and career exploration panels, providing hands-on demonstrations of what 21st Century manufacturing looks like In addition to the more than 500,000 students and local organizations expected to participate...
From "A Call to Action to Celebrate the Manufacturing of Today and Tomorrow", August 8, 2016
“With ingenuity and a determined spirit, hardworking Americans are creating products and unlocking new technologies that will shape our Nation and grow our economy… On National Manufacturing Day, we celebrate all those who proudly stand behind our goods and services made in America, and we renew our commitment to winning the race for the jobs of tomorrow.”-- President Obama, Manufacturing Day 2014 Proclamation
From "Manufacturing Relies on the Strengths of American Communities" -- October 29, 2015
Today, five years after we pulled our economy back from the brink of collapse, the heartbeat of American manufacturing continues to usher new products and new innovations to the marketplace — driving investments in new technologies that can provide the foundation for future U.S. leadership. In communities across the country, manufacturing firms are again growing and hiring, something thought impossible only a short while ago. Since February 2010, 865,000 new manufacturing jobs have been added – the first sustained job growth in the sector since the 1990s. And new manufacturing establishments have risen in the past two years, as manufacturing entrepreneurship unlocks new opportunities. We need to build on this progress, and we have a long way to go.Manufacturing, by definition, is local. We know the strength of America’s competitive edge lays in the talent and resilience of communities, where cutting edge factory floor production takes place, and where strategies for growing the next generation of American manufacturers take root. To help communities compete globally for manufacturing jobs and investment, the President launched the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) – an initiative aimed offering national support for local manufacturing talent and economic development strategies being enacted by communities. By leveraging an arsenal of federal tools, IMCP strengthens the competitive edge of manufacturing communities — attracting global firms to locate their production in these communities, and improve the capacity of small manufacturers which power our domestic supply chains.Despite early progress, we know that there is much more work to do to help communities rebuild and grow their local manufacturing capabilities to spur continued production and innovation. So last week the Department of Commerce and the White House brought together 11 federal agencies with over $1 billion in economic development funding, and more than 300 community leaders from across the country for the second annual IMCP Summit – to share best practices amongst the IMCP communities to continue their investments in targeted manufacturing sectors...
From "President Obama Launches Competition for New Textiles-Focused Manufacturing Innovation Institute; New White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative; and Funding to Support Small Manufacturers" -- March 18, 2015
In Cleveland, Ohio, the President launches ninth manufacturing hub competition and announces measures to strengthen the small manufacturers that power America’s supply chains.WASHINGTON, DC – Today the President is announcing nearly $500 million in public-private investment to strengthen American manufacturing by investing in cutting-edge technologies through a new, textiles-focused manufacturing institute competition led by the Department of Defense, and by sharpening the capabilities of small manufacturers through Manufacturing Extension Partnership competitions in twelve states. The White House, as detailed in a new report, is also launching a Supply Chain Innovation Initiative focused on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers that anchor the nation’s supply chains.The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, to create jobs and strengthen America’s leadership in advanced manufacturing technology, provides the resources to double the number of manufacturing innovation institutes nationwide to 16 by the end of 2016 and fulfills the President’s goal of building a network of up to 45 institutes over the decade. In contrast, the House Republican Budget released yesterday entrenches the harmful sequester levels of funding and proposes to eliminate the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, putting at risk critical investments in advanced manufacturing, workforce development and training, and innovation proposed in the President’s Budget.After a decade of decline in the 2000s when 40 percent of all large factories closed their doors, American manufacturing is adding jobs at its fastest rate in decades, with 877,000 new manufacturing jobs created since February 2010. Ohio alone has added nearly 70,000 manufacturing jobs over that period. Manufacturing production is up by almost a third since the recession and the number of factories manufacturing across the United States is growing for the first time since the 1990s...
From "We Can’t Wait: Obama Administration Announces New Public-Private Partnership to Support" -- August 16, 2012
Consortium of Businesses, Universities, and Community Colleges from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania Co-Invest with Federal Government in a Manufacturing Innovation InstituteWASHINGTON, DC – Following through on our We Can’t Wait efforts, the Obama Administration today announced the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio as part of its ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process, led by the Department of Defense, to award an initial $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from the winning consortium, which includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia ‘Tech Belt.’In order to create an economy built to last, America needs to make more things the rest of the world wants to buy. After losing millions of good manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the deep recession, the economy has added over 530,000 manufacturing jobs since February 2010 —the strongest growth for any 30 month period since 1989.Companies are also increasingly choosing to invest in the U.S. and bring jobs back. While there’s more work to be done, steps like today’s announcement build on this momentum.“I’m pleased that we are taking steps to strengthen American manufacturing by launching a new manufacturing institute in Ohio,” said President Obama. “This institute will help make sure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow take root not in places like China or India, but right here in the United States of America. That’s how we’ll put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts.”On March 9, 2012, President Obama announced his plan to invest $1 billion to catalyze a national network of up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes around the country that would serve as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence that will help to make our manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the United States. The President called on Congress to act on this proposal and create the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).
"President Obama Launches Advanced Manufacturing Partnership" -- June 24, 2011
Today, at Carnegie Mellon University, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. Investing in technologies, such as information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, will support the creation of good jobs by helping U.S. manufacturers reduce costs, improve quality, and accelerate product development.
White House announces the Office of Manufacturing Policy -- December 11, 2011:
President Obama Names Commerce Secretary John Bryson, NEC Chair Gene Sperling as Co-Chairs of White House Office of Manufacturing Policy.
WASHINGTON - President Obama today announced that Secretary John Bryson would join National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling as co-chair of the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The Office of Manufacturing Policy is part of the National Economic Council in the White House and works across federal government agencies to coordinate the execution of manufacturing programs and the development of manufacturing policy.
“At this make or break time for the middle class and our economy, we need a strong manufacturing sector that will put Americans back to work making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America,” said President Obama. “I am grateful that Secretary Bryson and Gene Sperling will head up this office to continue our efforts to revitalize this great American industry and fight for American workers and jobs.”...
From "Another Step for American Manufacturing" -- August 11, 2010:
Summary: Before signing the Manufacturing Enhancement Act, the President takes a step back to talk about his vision and commitment to American manufacturing.
Before signing the Manufacturing Enhancement Act, the President took a step back to talk about his vision and commitment to American manufacturing. That commitment has helped manufacturing become one of the surprisingly bright spots of the economic recovery. A sector that lost 3,864,000 between 2000 and 2008 has turned around and gained 183,000 jobs so far this year...
From "President Obama Announces Two New Public-Private Manufacturing Innovation Institutes and Launches the First of Four New Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competitions" -- February 25, 2014:
A Detroit-area based consortium of 60 companies, nonprofits, and universities and a Chicago based consortium of 73 companies, nonprofits, and universities are partnering with the federal government to launch two new manufacturing innovation hubs. The first new manufacturing innovation institute competition this year is launching today, one of four the Administration has committed to launching this year.
From Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address -- January 24, 2012
Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -– an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.Now, this blueprint begins with American manufacturing.On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker. (Applause.) Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back. (Applause.)What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can’t bring every job back that’s left our shore. But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. (Applause.) Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity. (Applause.)So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed....I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. (Applause.) My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers -– places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.
From "President Obama Awards $2.3 Billion for New Clean-Tech Manufacturing Jobs" -- January 08, 2010
Recovery Act Tax Credits to Enable More Than $7 Billion in New Manufacturing Projects and Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs
WASHINGTON – Today at the White House, President Obama announced the award of $2.3 billion in Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean energy manufacturing projects across the United States. One hundred eighty three projects in 43 states will create tens of thousands of high quality clean energy jobs and the domestic manufacturing of advanced clean energy technologies including solar, wind and efficiency and energy management technologies.
As part of the Recovery Act, these tax credits are focused on putting Americans back to work by building a robust domestic manufacturing capacity to supply clean and renewable energy projects with American made parts and equipment. These credits are also an important step towards meeting the President’s goal of doubling the amount of renewable energy the country uses in the next three years with wind turbines and solar panels built right here in the United States.
President Obama Speaks on Manufacturing in Ohio -- November 14, 2013
Summary: President Obama speaks at a steel factory that has become a global leader in producing the advanced high-strength steel that automakers are demanding for newer, more fuel efficient cars and trucks.Today, President Obama spoke at ArcelorMittal’s steel factory in Cleveland, Ohio. ArcelorMittal is the largest supplier of steel to the U.S. auto manufacturing sector.But just a few years ago, President Obama said, the economy was in free fall and the auto industry was on the brink of collapse. That meant demand for steel had dried up. Nearly 1,200 steelworkers were furloughed from the factory.Shortly after taking office, President Obama stepped in to give the auto industry the temporary helped in needed to start growing again. “We rolled up our sleeves, we made some tough choices,” he said. “We rescued and retooled the American auto industry; it saved more than a million jobs.”We bet on American ingenuity and American workers. And assembly lines started humming again, and automakers started to make cars again. And just a few months after this plant shut down, your plant manager got the call: Fire those furnaces back up, get those workers back on the job. And over the last four years, you’ve made yourselves one of the most productive steel mills not just in America, but in the world.Today, ArcelorMittal’s Cleveland plant is a global leader in producing the advanced high-strength steel that automakers are demanding for newer, more fuel efficient cars and trucks...
+ + + + +
There are hundreds more examples. Hundreds and hundreds. So ask yourself why you never even heard about Obama Administration policies actually saving of 1,200 jobs at ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, but you can't escape the deafening roar from Il Douche's smoke-and-mirror-and-seven-million-tax-dollar Carrier scam? (from the Washington Post):
He ‘lied his a– off': Carrier union leader on Trump’s big deal
And while you are asking yourself things, by way of contrast, ask yourself, hey, what the Hell was the Republican Party doing to ease the fears and burdens of working class Americans during this time of crisis when working class Americans needed them most?
Here are a few samples to jog your memory...
From The New Yorker, January 7, 2014
THE G.O.P. IS STILL HOLDING THE ECONOMY’S VICTIMS HOSTAGE
If you think Tuesday’s vote in the Senate to extend unemployment benefits means that Washington has finally come to its senses, think again.
From One Wisconsin Now, November 28, 2010
Republicans Hold Benefits Hostage for Working Families to Give Millionaires, Billionaires $100,000 Unpaid Gift
GOP Wishes 43,700 Wisconsin Workers a ‘Happy Holidays’ End to Unemployment Benefits
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin’s three incoming Republican Congressional legislators have remained silent while GOP congressional leadership holds aid for 43,700 unemployed Wisconsinites hostage in order to secure passage of the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires...
From The Christian Science Monitor, December 1, 2010:
Unemployment benefits: not until Bush tax cuts pass, Senate GOP says
Senate Republicans pledge not to take up any issues, including extending unemployment benefits, until the Bush tax cuts and federal spending bills are sorted out...
From The Atlantic, October 16, 2013
Republicans Shut Down the Government for Nothing
After two weeks of closed government and a debt-limit freakout, a deal is on the horizon—and the GOP has little to show for the crisis caused by its demands...
And remember how many of the the Very Serious Conservatives who loudly backed Bush's Iraqi Debacle until the wheels came off and exploded, were the very same Very Serious Conservatives who opined so-very-sadly that the glitchy initial rollout of the Affordable Care website was actually pretty much the end of the American experiment in self-government as we had known it?
The Legitimacy Problem
David Brooks DEC. 23, 2013
It’s pretty clear that the implementation of Obamacare will set the tone for how Americans think about government for years to come. There are two large questions to be settled, which you might call the questions of competence and coercion...
Then, of course, there was GOP's overarching strategy of unremitting, lockstep sabotage and obstruction which they backed up by constantly, constantly, constantly lying about it:
Ask a Trumpshirt if they remember any of this at all and they'll give you a dirty look, followed by a dozen "Yeah, but what about..."s, each of which will also be bullshit. Then they will scamper away, because they have literally been conditioned by years of hate radio and Fox News and the Breitbart Collective not to remember anything from The Big Scary Past that is ideologically inconvenient.
In other words, if a dirty Libtard says it, it ain't true, and anyone who says anything I disagree with is obviously a dirty Libtard. QED.
Then ask an "undecided" or an "independent" or an "I just hadda vote for Trump because..." friend if they remember any of this, and I guarantee you will get a squinty, faraway look as if they're trying to recollect some obscure fact about the Wendish Crusade of 1147, which had been imparted to them by a forgettable history teacher 40 years ago. Sure, some of this might ring a tiny bell, but inside their heads what will be ringing a much louder bell -- an iron bell the size of fucking Ceres which drowns out all your little, Liberal tintinnabulations -- are years and year and years of the Very Serious People in Americas finest newspapers and cable teevee shows telling them over and over and over and over again that all of this shit is the fault of Both Sides, so by God why not vote for an "outsider" who will disrupt the Corrupt Duopoly!
From the indispensable Rick Perlstein:
Meet the PressThe hustlers, hucksters, hacks, and cowards who helped elect Donald Trump...For CNN, Trumpland’s been an entire off-the-shelf business model. Their president, Jeff Zucker, was the executive who green-lighted “The Apprentice” while head of NBC Entertainment. He’s a cocktail-party pal with Donald, and has been accused by Huffington Post and BuzzFeed founder Ken Lerer, who knows the media business inside and out, of turning the Trump campaign into the very backbone of their 2016 brand as “a strategy, a programming strategy.”It’s certainly not, for the Cable News Network, a news story in any recognizable sense, which would imply some sort of responsibility to inform. How could CNN possibly do that after hiring Corey Lewandowski to comment upon a man, Donald Trump, whose emoluments he still received, and who was under a binding legal agreement never to inform the public of anything disparaging about him?So where are we now? At the razor’s edge. The Trump transition has put in stark relief the very foundations of the profession of journalism in modern America—whose fundamental canon is that there are two legitimate sides to every story, occasionally more, but never less. In a political campaign, they are structured on an iron axis. The Democratic side. The Republican side. Any critical attempt to weigh the utterances of one as more dangerous than the other is, by definition, the worst conceivable professional sin.Then, the picture that results is presumed to map social reality on a one-to-one basis.Thus, the crisis. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” as Upton Sinclair once observed. But by now, the conventional operation has been yielding distortions so palpable that even some mainstream professional journalists and editors are starting to understand it.But sometimes, they have not.It’s been a 50-50 sort of thing—and this is the hinge moment I suspect historians will bore down upon with particular intensity some decades hence...
The point-of-attack for the battle to come must be the "hustlers, hucksters, hacks, and cowards" of the Beltway media itself.
With them running interference for the American Fascist Party the GOP cannot lose.
Without them using the power of the press to smother democracy and honest debate with waves of Both Siderist white noise, the GOP cannot survive.
UPDATE: So what about Hillary? Glad you asked.
From The Atlantic:
UPDATE: So what about Hillary? Glad you asked.
From The Atlantic:
The Dangerous Myth That Hillary Clinton Ignored the Working Class
In the days after her shocking loss, Democrats complained that Clinton had no jobs agenda. A widely shared essay in The Nation blamed Clinton's "neoliberalism" for abandoning the voters who swung the election. “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders said on CBS This Morning, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from."
But here is the troubling reality for civically minded liberals looking to justify their preferred strategies: Hillary Clinton talked about the working class, middle class jobs, and the dignity of work constantly. And she still lost.She detailed plans to help coal miners and steel workers. She had decades of ideas to help parents, particularly working moms, and their children. She had plans to help young men who were getting out of prison and old men who were getting into new careers. She talked about the dignity of manufacturing jobs, the promise of clean-energy jobs, and the Obama administration’s record of creating private-sector jobs for a record-breaking number of consecutive months. She said the word “job” more in the Democratic National Convention speech than Trump did in the RNC acceptance speech; she mentioned the word “jobs” more during the first presidential debate than Trump did. She offered the most comprehensively progressive economic platform of any presidential candidate in history—one specifically tailored to an economy powered by an educated workforce...
Behold, a Tip Jar!