Donald Trump had long promised to 'bring back' American jobs and largely failed. Biden is taking a different route.
President Joe Biden's new infrastructure plan, which the White House formally unveiled on Wednesday, will invest $300 billion in American manufacturing — with plans to create new jobs in the manufacturing industry and bring back many of the jobs Donald Trump once pledged that he would.
Biden's plan proposes to allot $50 billion for semiconductor manufacturing, $30 billion for medical manufacturing, and $46 billion for clean energy manufacturing. Boosting manufacturing in this way historically results in increases in high-wage jobs — particularly in the areas of computers and electronics, transportation, machinery, and chemicals, to include pharmaceuticals.
His plan is timely as unemployment rates in the manufacturing sector have grown during the pandemic to 4.8%, up from 3.9% in Feb. 2020. More than 700,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between February 2020 and August 2020, and experts have said many will never be regained.
A lot of American workers rely on jobs in the manufacturing sector. According to data from the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry employed 8.5% of all American workers. It also employs a much larger number of workers without college degrees than most other industries, and those without degrees can expect to earn over 10% more than non-degreed workers in other sectors of the economy.
Trump had long promised both on the campaign trail and during his time in office to "bring back" manufacturing jobs to the United States, particularly those sent offshore to other countries.
Trump's pledged on Inauguration Day in 2017: "We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We'll bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams."
But a few months before the pandemic, Mark Zandi, Moody's Analytics chief economist, told USA Today that Trump had failed to deliver on his promise.
Zandi remarked, "It's probably a wash. By any objective standard, the job market has performed no better during his tenure than in the lead-up to his tenure."
In September, during one of his campaign rallies in Michigan, Trump told his audience, "You better vote for me, I got you so many damn car plants. And we’re going to bring you a lot more." But the state of Michigan lost more than 66,000 manufacturing jobs between the summer of 2019 and the summer of 2020, and job growth in the industry was already trending downwards before the pandemic.
In October, he claimed in the presidential debate, "I brought back 700,000 jobs," referring to the manufacturing industry. "[Obama and Biden] brought back nothing."
But the actual number of jobs created prior to the pandemic in the industry was about 450,000 — and by the time Trump made the statement, employment in the industry had actually fallen by close to 240,000 because of the pandemic. Obama added about 916,000 jobs in the sector during his time in office, and Trump's statement fails to account for the fact that Obama inherited a recession.
Experts agree that productivity growth across any economy depends first on gains and innovations in the manufacturing industry and that policies emphasizing growth in manufacturing lead to enormous macroeconomic growth. They also note that Biden's plan is attuned to the needs of the ever-shifting dynamics of a diverse and multiracial working class, as with, for instance, his emphasis on boosting jobs in the medical manufacturing industry.
Yet Trump, who set his sights almost exclusively on restoring blue-collar manufacturing jobs, didn't follow through on his promises.
MarketWatch notes that in 2018, 30% of private-company-created new jobs were in "goods-producing industries," but that number had decreased to 7% by February 2020.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.