Heather McGhee, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos Action joined Joy Reid this morning to talk about the ways GND policy can act as guidance for mitigating job loss.
March 9, 2019

Donald Trump was supposed to bring all the jobs to the yard, right? Riiiiiight.

Joy Reid focused a segment of her show on the village of Lordstown, Ohio, since General Motors announced closure of its plant there — one that had operated for 50 years. The impact will devastate the community, since the entire community revolves around the jobs at that plant. 1,700 hourly jobs will be lost, and the town has lost 3,000 union jobs since 2017.

She played a clip of a worker in Lordstown, who predicted that if some product doesn't land there for manufacturing, basically the entire town will have to leave. Reid spoke with Sarah Kendzior, scholar and author, and Heather McGee, who's a Distinguished Senior Fellow with Demos Action, about the impact on the Lordstown community. There, and in many similar towns, the only stores are Dollar stores. Reid wanted to know, "Is there an answer to the loss of manufacturing jobs in our communities, when the pull of cheap, overseas labor is real?"

McGHEE: There is an answer, and one of the most exciting answers we've heard in a long time is the Green New Deal. This is the perfect example of where we need industrial policy. That's what the green new deal is. It's saying, "You know what? We have a goal. We want to reduce climate emissions so we can save, and make sure the planet is inhabitable for our--

REID: Can you give me an example? What does that do, exactly? What would the Green New Deal do for this specific industry?

McGHEE: We should be, as we invented the electric car in this country, we should be the world leader in manufacturing electric cars. Tesla has shown trying to do it outside of the manufacturing base of the midwest, where there's so much embedded skill and talent and know-how on the floor is very, very difficult. This actual plant should be the hub of the new, not only the cars, but the new high-speed rail, and the things that are made to make sure we have fuel efficiency in this country. That we are not polluting ourselves into an uninhabitable earth. There's no reason why the retro-fitting of buildings around the country, the mass transit that needs to be invested in, all of that needs hard skills, the construction skills that right now are being left to atrophy. I want to make another point. This is not the case of the bailouts as it was in 2008. GM is doing extraordinarily well. They don't need a bailout right now. They made $12 billion in profits last year. They spent $14 billion buying back their own stock on the stock market to inflate their stock prices, something that used to be illegal and should be again. This is just a choice, to just say we would rather pay lower wages, nonunion wages, and that choice I think should not be something that policy is pressing them to be able to do.

Reid wanted to know from Sarah Kendzior if there was any hope at all for retraining the workforce, to "build the future, build electric cars." She asked, isn't that what the original New Deal was all about? Using government resources to put people back to work in ways that benefitted the country at large? As usual, Kendzior brought the firepower to back up her answer, excoriating the lack of moral interest on the part of GM and other big manufacturing companies in workers who have devoted their entire lives to the company. She further blasted the total irresponsibility of these corporations who make billions, requiring expensive degrees of people applying for jobs that clearly don't require them. That dooms any youth going forward, laying waste to the notion that they might want to stay in their hometowns where they grew up.

KENDZIOR: Yes, absolutely, if people are willing to do it. You know, people go on and on about this skills gap. But there's not a skills gap. There's a morality gap. There's a refusal to offer on-the-job training. There's insistence that people get expensive credentials and expensive degrees for jobs that shouldn't really require them. You know, there hasn't been this magical shift in people's intellect or ability. It used to be you could enter a job on the ground floor in a plant, you know, like the Chevy plant in Lordstown, and work your way up and learn those skills there. I don't see why they can't do that with new kinds of jobs, with jobs, as was said, related to the Green New Deal with other types of cars. That is something that people, you know, they owe these workers that. It's cruel, it's unnecessary, and it can be fixed if you have the will.

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