Remember poor Element Electronics?
Element assembles (or actually, used to assemble) TVs in Winnsboro, South Carolina, at a plant that employed 126 people. It was one of the last remaining large employers in Fairfield County, which apparently lost a Walmart two years ago. The “our story” section of the company’s website reads as follows:
We’re bringing the world’s best technology home to Winnsboro, SC. From production that combines meticulous hand-assembly with the most advanced technology available, to innovation that ensures Element TVs are not only on the forefront now, but are ready for what’s next.
We’re building pride. An economic comeback. A healthier environment. And a stronger country.
Yes, Element was “building pride” and a lot of other things in Winnsboro. Only not anymore. Thanks to Trump’s tariffs, they aren’t going to be building a damn thing come October.
Because according to a recent letter sent to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, they’re closing the plant and laying nearly everyone off “as a result of the new tariffs that were recently and unexpectedly imposed on many goods imported from China, including the key television components used in assembly operations in Winnsboro.”
You can read the whole story on that (and watch a truly unfortunate video) in “‘It’s A Sad Moment’: A South Carolina Town Hits ‘Rock Bottom’ As Trump’s Tariffs Force Plant Closure“.
The reason we wanted to revisit this tale of MAGA gone horribly awry is because OMB Director Mick Mulvaney is now begging the President to spare Element Electronics from the trade war.
If you’re not familiar with Mick, suffice to say he’s not what one might call “popular” in many circles, which is why a lot of folks have enjoyed watching the notorious budget hawk squirm when pressed to explain how it is that a ballooning deficit is consistent with his previous rhetoric on fiscal rectitude. Even funnier was the moment in February when Mick was forced to reconcile spending $30 million on Trump’s now-scrapped military parade with his (Mick’s) infamous 2010 declaration that “we can’t spend money we don’t have.”
Well, Mick was of course a South Carolina Republican congressman, and as it turns out, Element Electronics is near and dear to his otherwise cold heart. Here’s McClatchy:
Element Electronics is personal to Mulvaney. The plant announced it would break ground in Winnsboro, South Carolina in 2013, when Mulvaney was a second-term congressman. He was not responsible for Element’s arrival — then-Gov. Nikki Haley, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, took credit for the facility’s recruitment — but he did eventually become close friends with Element President Michael O’Shaughnessy.
South Carolina State Sen. Mike Fanning, a Democrat who represents Fairfield County where Element is headquartered, said Mulvaney’s involvement is well known.
“I know that he is actively pleading on our behalf, because people we’ve talked to in D.C., they say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, we’ve already heard this from Mick Mulvaney,’” said Fanning.
“Yes, yes, yes”, Mick has pleaded with Trump. In fact, he’s been talking about Element for at least two years in the context of the America’s trade agenda. Consider these excerpts from a Reuters article dated October, 2016:
Tweaking the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as Hillary Clinton has pledged to do, or ripping it up, as Donald Trump demands, may do nothing to help companies like Element Electronics Corp, which owns America’s last television factory.
Winnsboro, South Carolina-based Element, and the television industry more broadly, offer a window into the complexity of industrial supply chains and illustrate why pushing manufacturing jobs back to the United States is so difficult.
O’Shaughnessy has appealed for a tariff exemption from his local congressman, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican. Mulvaney said he is sympathetic but has been unable to win over many fellow lawmakers who consider special exemptions a form of earmarks for special interests, which many oppose on principle.
“Element makes clear the real world implications of these trade deals we have signed,” said Mulvaney, adding that it’s time to “review” NAFTA to iron out this and other loopholes.
So that’s not exactly a rebuke of the push to review trade deals, but it does show that “yes, yes, yes”, Mick cares about this particular business (notably, FEC records show O’Shaughnessy contributed more than $5,000 to Mulvaney’s congressional campaign in 2016).
But does the President likely care about the 126 jobs lost in Winnsboro? “No, no, no”, probably not.
And I’ll give you one guess as to why…
(The assembly line at Element in Winnsboro, SC)