As you can probably imagine, the Harley-Davidson news wasn’t well received by motorcycle enthusiast, expert business bankrupter and man who allegedly robbed thousands of would-be students in a massive for-profit college scam, Donald Trump.
Harley of course announced plans to move some production to Europe on Monday in what amounted to the latest evidence that Trump’s trade “strategy” is backfiring.
That was hilariously ironic considering all the fun pictures Trump took last year standing proudly beside a bunch of Hogs. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? This is from February 2017:
Here’s a transcript of those remarks from the White House:
THE PRESIDENT: So it’s great to have Harley-Davidson. What a great, great group of people and what a fantastic job you do. And thank you for all of the votes you gave me in Wisconsin. Some people thought that was an upset; I thought we were going to win it. From the beginning, we thought we were going to win it.
Harley-Davidson is a true American icon, one of the greats. Your motorcycles have carried American servicemembers in the war — in the wars. They take care of our police officers. And I see it so often — whenever I go — whenever there’s a motorcycle group, oftentimes it’s a Harley. And the sound of that Harley is a little different, I have to tell you. It’s really good.
So thank you, Harley-Davidson, for building things in America. And I think you’re going to even expand — I know your business is now doing very well and there’s a lot of spirit right now in the country that you weren’t having so much in the last number of months that you have right now. You see what’s happening.
“We want to make it easier for business to create more jobs and more factories to be made in the U.S. and you’re a great example of that,” Trump also said at that meeting.
Oh, what a difference 15 months makes.
Fast forward to June of this year and that plan to “make it easier for business to create more jobs and more factories” includes forcing them into a situation where retaliatory tariffs effectively shut them out of entire foreign markets. Here’s what Harley said in a filing on Monday for those who missed it:
In the near-term, the company will bear the significant impact resulting from these tariffs, and the company estimates the incremental cost for the remainder of 2018 to be approximately $30 to $45 million. On a full-year basis, the company estimates the aggregate annual impact due to the EU tariffs to be approximately $90 to $100 million.
And the truly sad thing about this whole debacle is that workers in Wisconsin are too goddamn stupid to understand what’s going on. Someone won’t like that characterization, but it’s the truth and as ridiculous as this sounds, I’m not trying to be condescending there.
Read the following excerpts from a piece published today by FT (and do yourself a favor: click through to FT and read the whole thing):
It is time for a smoke break at the Harley-Davidson power-train facility in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and the talk is all about tariffs. The men and women who build these famous American motorcycles are weighing the latest unintended consequence of Donald Trump’s presidency: the possibility they could lose their jobs because of a tit-for-tat trade war that has caught the Harley in its crossfire.
The workers gathered outside the factory gate could end up as collateral damage, but most are sticking by their man regardless. Wearing earphones draped around their necks and safety blinders on their glasses, most happily volunteer that they voted for Mr Trump and would do so again — tariffs or no tariffs. “He wouldn’t do it unless it needed to be done, he’s a very smart businessman,” said one Harley employee whose name is embroidered on his work shirt — though he asks not to be quoted by name.
Asked whether they blame the president or the EU for causing Harley’s offshoring decision, most say emphatically that they blame only the Europeans. “The president was just trying to save the US aluminium and steel industry,” said one approvingly.
How fucking sad is that, right? I’ve said this over and over and over again over the past two years and I’ll say it again: the greatest tragedy of this entire presidency is that Donald Trump has convinced everyday Americans that somehow, the man for the job when it comes to resurrecting Middle America is a notoriously narcissistic billionaire with a history of demonstrating a complete and utter lack of regard for anyone but himself and who has, on too many occasions to count (literally), proven himself to be one of the worst businessmen in the history of high profile businessmen.
There is nothing about Donald Trump’s past that suggest he cares about blue collar workers – nothing. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite.
On the business front, his track record is horrendous. He’s been a miserable failure at virtually everything he’s tried and it is almost certain that he would be richer today had he put his fortune in an index fund and left it alone decades ago (of course you could say that for a lot of us, but you get the point).
Of course instead of owning up to the fact that Harley is being forced to do this, Trump is going to instead accuse the company of lying about its own business. Here he is:
Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag. I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade, down $151 Billion. Taxes just a Harley excuse – be patient! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
Almost all of that is lies. Demonstrable, bald-faced lies.
For one thing, “they” will not “pay tariffs” – you will. Companies will pass these costs on to consumers. Period. That’s how this works.
As Reuters reminds you, “in late April, Harley said Trump’s metal tariffs would inflate its costs by $15 million to $20 million this year on top of already rising raw material prices that it expected at the start of the year.” So this is a double-whammy for them.
When that worker cited by FT talks about Trump “just trying to save the US aluminum and steel industry,” I certainly hope that person is apprised of the disparity between how many people work in the aluminum and steel industry and how many people work in downstream jobs that rely on cheap inputs. Recall this from Barclays:
The steel and aluminum manufacturing industries are smaller employers than the industries that use these metals as inputs (Figure 1). Over time, tariffs may be deleterious to regions where Trump enjoys strong support.
Dear Wisconsin Harley workers: see that “total employed” number for “motor vehicles and parts” figure? Yeah, that’s you. And you’re about to get fucked. So I hope some of those steel mills that Trump has “saved” are hiring.
To add insult to injury, you’re going to be paying more for the things you buy (that’s the bit above about how it’s not a “they” issue when it comes to paying tariffs, it’s a “you” issue, whether you realize it or not). Some companies have more capacity to absorb this than others, but the bottom line is that the products that everyday Americans purchase are going to eventually get more expensive if Trump doesn’t stop this.
Additionally, Trump is accusing Harley of lying. This is demagoguery at its finest. You try to distort the truth and then, when someone does something that’s out of your control and thus can’t be spun, you simply accuse them of ulterior motives. He is actually accusing Harley of lying to their employees (“using the tariffs/trade war as an excuse”). That means that when people like the gullible fuckers quoted in that FT article excerpted above get fired, they’ll end up blaming Harley and Europe for something that Donald Trump did.
This is wildly unfortunate and it’s the very definition of one of Trump’s favorite Twitter hashtags: “#Sad”.
Look at this moron and tell me if you think he gives a damn about Harley:
Oh, and just in case you need further evidence of Trump’s fickle demeanor and thin skin, he is now predicting “the beginning of the end” for Harley:
A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2018