Donald Trump has two premises behind his ‘make american great again’ initiative — (1) the solution to outsourcing and automation is to ask [a.k.a. use presidential power to bully] companies into manufacturing products domestically and (2) that no one has tried this because they just aren’t as clever as he and never thought of it.
Reality is that most people have a much firmer grasp of the long-term and wide-scale repercussions of their actions. His approach may work as a one-off — a single company or industry certainly doesn’t want the bad publicity associated with the president of the United States denigrating their reputation (see broccoli & Pres Bush #1 in 1990). Specifically mentioning Carrier during the debate was notable. A president specifically singling out one company for offshoring manufacturing jobs will be national news. There’s a cost/benefit analysis. Shifting manufacturing overseas saves a million, but bad publicity costs five mil in sales … OK, we’ll ship a quarter of the jobs overseas and keep more than the 0 we initially planned on leaving here.
This approach has diminishing returns. Who is going to read the White House Press Office’s list of today’s “companies that suck because they want to offshore production”?! Individually calling out one company is news partially because it is so outside the norm. If his plan was to select the three largest potential employers and strong-arm them into keeping jobs in the country … OK, it’s a strategy. I doubt, though, that Carrier is one of the largest potential employers in America.
The other reality that Trump ignores is that manufacturing automation negates wage differences — we’re all going to be unemployed while robots make everything, AI engines diagnose illness and negotiate legal proceedings, workflows process mortgages. We have the opportunity now to retrain people for the post-robotic world – hypothesize what jobs will look like and fund training programs to ready people for those opportunities. Bullying companies might work in the short term – even keep jobs around long enough for re-election. But this is the same ideology that wrote NINA mortgages a decade ago — *I* am making money *now*, who cares about next year. Eventually the conjecture of lost sales will be insignificant compared to the savings offered by automation.