President Donald Trump didn't save jobs in Michigan. Ford will move production of its Focus to China.

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Historically, the President-elect would maintain a studied silence until after the inauguration. But the norm-breaking Donald Trump was having none of that. He inserted himself into Carrier’s decision to move jobs from Indiana to Mexico and appeared to make the company back down. The same thing happened with Ford, which scrapped a plan to move production of its Focus compact car from Michigan to Mexico.

If one believed (which I don’t) that Trump’s appeal was to the economic grievances of the white working class, here was evidence of vigor. A CEO himself, he was going to make those other CEOs put America first.

The reality has proved quite different. Today Ford announced it will begin making the next-generation Focus in China as of 2019, and exporting it worldwide, including to the United States.

Much the same happened with Carrier, where Trump’s “victory” was far less than he claimed. As for Ford, canceling the $1.6 billion assembly in Mexico might have been a business decision, but Trump claimed it as a victory. Now…ashes.

A plant in Mexico would at least have benefited U.S. parts suppliers within the NAFTA zone. But Trump wants to “renegotiate” NAFTA, leaving every company doing business in Canada and Mexico with unnecessary uncertainty.

China, the company says, will save it $500 million. This will also give it greater access to the huge Chinese market.

At the same time, Ford said it would invest $900 million in its Louisville, Ky., truck plant to build Expeditions. SUVs are selling better with cheap gasoline (oh, joy to the planet). The move won’t add jobs, but will secure for now 1,000 positions.

Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution has an interesting new analysis on the plateauing of auto sales and the implications for manufacturing jobs. The auto sector has represented 60 percent to 80 percent of the growth of factory jobs over the past two years. So the broader situation is not promising.

Now as President, Trump is caught up in scandal, late-night tweeting and weekend golf rather than pressuring CEOs to save jobs. He has presented no economic vision beyond the GOP standbys of tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation. The administration is hostile to areas that could produce good jobs, such as renewable energy, transit and passenger trains. The Senate is secretly gutting the Affordable Care Act, perhaps even worse than the House version.

Which reinforces the theory that this election, to the extent that it was not stolen, was about racial and cultural identity politics among Trump voters, not economic anxiety. The white working class will hurt from his policies, but maybe they’re OK with this. They can blame Obama.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

‘Alexa, would you

Buy me something from Whole Foods?’

‘Buying Whole Foods, Jeff’

(with hat-tip to various tweets)