Donald Trump Is Not Going to “Bring Back American Jobs”… But in the Name of American Jobs He Will Bring on New Horrors
by Raymond Lotta
November 14, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
One of Donald Trump’s trademark declarations is that “American jobs” are being “ripped off” by China, Mexico, India, and other countries. Your job is being stolen, and he’s going to bring it back. This is lying, chauvinist propaganda about how capitalism-imperialism actually works; and it serves an ugly imperialist agenda. Here is the reality.
1. In a capitalist economy, workers do not “own” their jobs. They own their capacity to work, their energy and skills… their labor power. But people don’t get to work simply because they want to and have that capacity. They must sell their labor power to a capitalist in order to survive and keep their families alive. And the capitalists will only hire workers if, and only if, that labor power can be profitably utilized and exploited. When it can’t, people are unemployed and go hungry.
This situation exists because the capitalist class owns and controls the major means of production in society: machines, raw materials, factories, warehouses, telecommunications, and so on. And once your labor power is sold, you perform a job according to the dictates of the capitalists who own those means of production. You are not part of process of determining, “Well, we’re going to create transport that is safer and environmentally sustainable.” No, you are under the control of the capitalists.
There is no such thing as “American jobs.” A company like GM hires workers, lays-off workers, builds new factories, closes factories, re-tools factories, and moves factories—from one part of the country to another and to different parts of the world. This is driven by the quest for profit and more profit, by competition to reduce costs and to gain market share. Jobs don’t have labels with people’s names on them. You don’t own a job and have no right to employment—much less meaningful work for the betterment of humanity—under capitalism.
2. It is a fact: decent-paying, less-skilled jobs in manufacturing and other industries have been disappearing in the U.S. over the last 30 years. There are 5 million fewer manufacturing jobs in the U.S. today than in 1995. This is not because some Chinese worker or undocumented immigrant decided to “steal” an American worker’s job, or because the U.S. has “inept trade negotiators.” No, it has to do with the imperatives of production for profit.
- Because of intense competition in the world market, U.S. corporations have relocated factories to other parts of the world; they have also sub-contracted production to low-cost manufacturers operating in countries like China and Mexico. Most of what is sold at Wal-Mart comes via this route. This overseas production is highly profitable for U.S. capital: wages are lower; workers are subjected to grueling hours and subjected to prison-like discipline (in China young women workers often live in factory compounds); and regulations, like environmental standards, are looser (China has the most polluted large cities and major rivers in the world). Again, this is highly profitable. For every iPhone made in China, and is sold for hundreds of dollars in the U.S., only about $6 stays in China; the rest goes to Apple and its affiliates.
- Globalization of production and finance is built into the structure and functioning of contemporary capitalism-imperialism and is a key link in the U.S. economic strength. It has been served by trade agreements like NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. Donald Trump neither aims to nor could he, if he wanted to, undo globalization without imperiling the profitability of the system.
- More jobs in the U.S. have been lost to technology, automation, and new techniques of production than to globalization. In a highly competitive world market, capitalists are driven to increase production and efficiency. They do this by slashing jobs, cutting all kinds of costs, increasing discipline over workers to boost production, and so on. The main way capitalism operates to increase productivity is to replace human labor with machines, with robots, with new technique. In the U.S., millions of factory jobs have been wiped out since 1995, but the manufacturing output of a drastically reduced workforce has doubled.
Here’s the deal. Donald Trump can tear up every trade agreement he wants. But the great bulk of jobs lost since 1980 can’t be brought back from China, Mexico, or anywhere. They can’t be brought back because they don’t exist anymore. It’d be like saying, “Let’s bring farm jobs back to America,” return to the time when one-third of the U.S. population was on farms. Those jobs are gone, replaced by tractors and all kinds of agricultural technology.
3. Under the umbrella of a virulent “America first” chauvinism, and serving a larger imperialist agenda, the fascist Trump could take certain measures and adopt certain policies that could boost jobs in the U.S… at a horrific cost to humanity and the planet.
- Trump could, and has announced his intention to, ramp up military production (as Hitler did after he came to power). New jobs… as a byproduct of massively enlarging and upgrading what is already the largest military arsenal of death and destruction in human history, already carrying out multiple wars, already with the potential to destroy the planet several times over.
- Trump could, as he said he will, shred the grossly inadequate environmental protections and standards that do exist in the U.S. and break out of international climate agreements—and open up public lands to more oil and natural gas drilling and more fracking, more clear-cutting of trees; and he could push through subsidies to increase coal production. Yes, some more jobs created… by accelerating the destruction of nature and animal habitat and the warming of the planet. And in case you haven’t been listening: Trump’s call for infrastructure investment is not a call to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels.
- Trump is prepared to wage trade wars to assert U.S. economic and strategic interests. He has announced his intention to apply economic pressure on China and Mexico. He has called for tariffs on goods imported into the U.S. from those and other countries (a tariff is a kind of sales tax on foreign-made goods that makes them more expensive). Lowering the volume of goods from, let’s say, China could temporarily benefit some capitalist manufacturers in the U.S. More sales might lead to hiring more workers.
But those countries Trump targets—especially China, the U.S.’s single largest trading partner—would likely retaliate with tariffs of their own. U.S. capitalists would not be able to sell as much of what they export to the incredibly lucrative and expanding market in China (because U.S. goods would become more expensive and less competitive). That would lead to layoffs in the U.S. Production might slow down in other countries and more trade wars could break out—leading to a downward spiral of economic activity. And growing trade tensions could fuel military conflict. It has happened in the history of capitalism.
This system compels U.S. capitalists to circle the globe to exploit labor, dominate markets, and plunder resources in ruthless competition with other capitalists. This imperialist-capitalist system is backed and enforced by enormous military violence. This predatory system creates misery and suffering for billions around the world and is destroying the planet. Donald Trump is its extreme incarnation in extreme times.
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