Fake Ads in the Time of Trump
By Barbara Koeppel
We’ve heard a lot about fake news. What about fake ads? Surely they deserve the “Pinocchio” reality check.
Let’s start with the April 29 full-page Washington Post ad run by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) applauding the president for his first 100 days. The organization hailed the trumpeter in chief for his accomplishments and hoped for more of the same.
“Thank you President Trump, for 100 days of progress,” the ad cheered.
Whose progress? Obviously NAM’s, or it wouldn’t have forked out the Post’s fee—about $127,000.
The problem is, most of the triumphs the ad touts are dubious. For example, it opens with a whopper. “You’ve promoted investment and created jobs.”
Well, yes and no. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 93,000 fewer new jobs were created from February to April 2017 (522,000), under the Trump reign, than over the same months in 2016 (615,000).
As for new investment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, gross private domestic investment in the first quarter of 2017 (adjusted for inflation and seasonal variations) was up 1.7 percent from the fourth quarter 2016—not much to brag about.
Next, NAM’s ad gushed about the two pipelines (Dakota Access and Keystone XL) the president OK’d. While Trump claimed Keystone will create 28,000 jobs when completed, the State Department put the number a tad lower, at 35 or 50.
According to NAM, the job creator in chief will rescue American manufacturers by reducing “the job-crushing regulatory burden,” “the red tape,” “the overreaching EPA and unfair labor regulations,” “the oppressive rules that obstructed energy development and prevented American independence.” And if that wasn’t enough, he’ll roll back “harmful Obamacare mandates.” Wow!
So, which manufacturers have suffered under such ruinous rules?
Not Emerson Electric Co., of which NAM’s chairman, David Farr, is CEO: In fact, its 2016 global sales were $14.5 billion. Boasting about its numbers, Emerson’s online blurbs claim it’s “one of a handful of companies with 60 consecutive years or more of increasing dividends to its shareholders.”
Not FLUOR Corp., of which NAM’s vice chair, David Seaton, is CEO: One of the world’s largest engineering corporations, FLUOR’s 2016 revenues rose to $19 billion, up from $18 billion in 2015.
Not the firms represented on NAM’s Executive Committee. For example, Pfizer earned $52.8 billion. Ingersoll Rand’s sales and revenues rose to $13.5 billion. Fresenius Medical Care Services 2016 revenues soared 7 percent over 2015, to $17.9 billion. And Cargill Inc.’s 2016 revenues were a whopping $107 billion.
Even ExxonMobil, whose 2016 earnings were down to $7.8 billion, reported this was due to “sharply lower commodity prices, upstream”—not ruthless regulations. We are relieved to note that with $7.8 billion in revenue, ExxonMobil is not yet out of business.
Interestingly, most of the rules or acts that NAM says Trump reversed are those which hadn’t yet taken effect (not “overturned” as the ad claims). But a few were already in motion and the Trump/congressional changes will be big. For example, this past February and March, Trump and Congress killed the 2016 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule that required firms applying for government contracts to report cases in which they violated federal laws in the past—say, on wages, safety, health, collective bargaining and civil rights.
According to Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, the rule was designed to ensure that workers are protected and that billions of dollars in federal contracts are no longer awarded to companies with a record of violations.
Trump also overturned a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency rule designed to stop firms from dumping toxic waste into waterways. While it will take some time for the new order to take effect, it’s official. As a non-NAM member, it’s hard to see why polluting waterways is a plus, though industries have long resented any government intrusions. They might also be hit with the cleanup bill down the road—although to be fair, they might not, since the tab is often picked up by taxpayers. Score one for industry.
The ad ends with a rapturous crescendo: “And you’re just getting started. The 12 million men and women who make things in America stand with you to renew the American Spirit.”
Good job, Donald!
Is it possible that even a few of those who “make things” will not cheer? If they don’t, NAM might suggest these employees—whose salaries, benefits, work conditions, health and quality of life will surely deteriorate—eat some American pie. (Cake, after all, is for the French.)
Good job, NAM!
Barbara Koeppel is a freelance investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C.