The following editorial appeared in The Mercury News on Dec. 1:
President-elect Donald Trump and his vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, pulled off a great little coup by persuading Carrier to keep about 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis after the company had announced it was moving 1,700 jobs to Mexico.
It was a political and public relations triumph: Trump said he’d bring back manufacturing, he’s saving 1,000 jobs and he’s not even president yet. And of course it’s wonderful for the workers, who can keep their $25-per-hour jobs for at least awhile longer.
But a model for manufacturing job recovery it is not.
Carrier stayed because of government incentives and tax breaks. If Indianapolis and the state offered the same breaks to lots of other companies, they’d have to find other ways to raise revenue to pave streets and provide public safety. It is not scalable. As economist Paul Krugman noted in the New York Times, Trump would have to do a deal like this once a week for 30 years to save as many jobs as Obama’s auto bailout.
The Carrier deal is what states and communities do case by case to attract a new factory or keep one going. California, for example, helped Tesla make its Fremont, Calif., plant pencil out — although the competition for Tesla was other states, not other countries.
The Obama administration took a lot of flak for helping some green industries when one failed spectacularly, but most of the companies in the program thrived and created thousands of jobs. Through a venture capital lens, it was a good investment.
We hope the Carrier investment is a good deal for the long term. But saving an existing plant is different from persuading companies to build new ones here, let alone bringing back jobs from overseas.
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