- Robert Weissmanpresident of Public Citizen.
President-elect Donald Trump kicked off his victory tour Thursday by touting his involvement in Carrier’s decision to keep some jobs in the U.S. instead of moving them all to Mexico. Carrier is a multibillion-dollar company, and the Pentagon is the largest customer of its parent company, United Technologies. Trump said the deal for Carrier to keep the jobs in state reportedly includes a $7 million incentive package with tax breaks and reduced regulations. Meanwhile, about 1,000 workers for the company in Indiana will reportedly still lose their jobs. We speak with Public Citizen’s president, Robert Weissman.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Donald Trump kicked off his victory tour Thursday at a rally in Indiana, where he celebrated his involvement in Carrier’s decision to keep some jobs in the U.S. instead of moving them all to Mexico.
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: So many jobs are leaving and going to other countries, not just Mexico, many, many countries. And China is making so much of our product that we’re closing up a lot of plants. And, I mean, I wrote down some numbers that are incredible, but the numbers of manufacturing jobs that are lost, especially in the Rust Belt—and the Rust Belt is so incredible, but we’re losing companies—it’s—it’s unbelievable, one after another. United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up, and now they’re keeping—actually, the number is over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so great.
AMY GOODMAN: Carrier is a multibillion-dollar company that makes air conditioners. The single largest customer of its parent company, United Technologies, is the Pentagon. Trump said the deal for Carrier to keep the jobs in state reportedly includes a $7 million incentive package with tax breaks and reduced regulations.
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: One of the things we’re doing to keep them is we’re going to be lowering our business tax from 35 percent hopefully down to 15 percent, which would take us from the highest taxed nation virtually in the world—this is terrible for business—to one of the lower taxed, not the lowest yet, but one of the lower taxed. The other thing we’re doing is regulations. … About six years ago, 260 new federal regulations have passed, 53 of which affect this plant—53 new regulations, massively expensive, and probably none of them amount to anything in terms of safety or the things that you’d have regulations for.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, it’s believed more than a thousand workers for the company in Indiana will reportedly still lose their jobs. Carrier employees at the plant in nearby Huntington, Indiana, were handed letters under the header, “Company Update on Indianapolis Operations.” The announcement read, quote, “While this announcement is good news for many, we recognize it is not good news for everyone. We are moving forward with previously announced plans to relocate the fan coil manufacturing lines, with the expected completion by the end of 2017.” They’re closing the Huntington plant.
This comes as Donald Trump announced plans to leave his businesses. In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, he tweeted, “I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my [various] businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!” he wrote.
After Trump’s Twitter announcement, the Office of Government Ethics responded with a tweet storm of its own, writing, quote, “@realDonaldTrump Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest. Good call!” and “@realDonaldTrump this divestiture does what handing over control could never have done,” unquote. Ethics experts say Trump must divest from his business interests to avoid conflicts of interest.
Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests. We’re starting with Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, who’s been following what he calls “Trump’s corporate takeover of federal agencies” and has written that “Trump’s conflicts of interest are unprecedented in American history.”
But I want to start, Rob Weissman, by talking about Carrier and what exactly is understood at this point. Now, it sounds like about 800 jobs are going to be saved, while about 1,100 jobs will be lost with the closing of one of the Carrier plants. But this is all as a result of a $7 million tax break, is that right, for Carrier?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Yeah, that seems to be right. You know, Trump, yesterday in his speech, said companies that leave the United States to take jobs out will be punished, one way or another. But, in fact, what this deal is about is paying a bribe to Carrier to stay—and, you know, as you were saying in the lead up, not really stay. Some jobs stay, not the number he said, on terms that are unknown, for a time that’s unknown. We do know that in the past these kinds of deals to pay subsidies to retain jobs or to get new jobs typically don’t work and that the jobs that are promised don’t materialize, or the jobs that are supposed to stay don’t stay very long.
You know, it’s also interesting that he said, in the clip you played, part of the way he allegedly convinced Carrier to keep these hundreds of jobs in Indiana is through his promise of tax cuts and wiping away regulation. Well, those tax cuts, if they’re able to be delivered on, which we surely hope we can block, actually would have nothing to do with where Carrier locates itself. It’s going to have the same tax rate whether or not it does production in Mexico or does it in Indiana. And on the regulations he talks about, you know, he has an aggregate number, but he doesn’t name a single regulation that he thinks is unfair to Carrier or that does the wrong thing for the American people. So those kinds of regulations he’s talking about wiping away include things like establishing that people who work long hours will be paid proper overtime compensation—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I wanted to—
ROBERT WEISSMAN: —or reductions in climate emissions.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Donald Trump speaking last March.
DONALD TRUMP: I will call the head of Carrier, and I will say, “I hope you enjoy your new building. I hope you enjoy your stay in Mexico. Here’s the story, folks: Every single air-conditioning unit that you build and send across our border, you’re going to pay a 35 percent tax on that unit.”
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, in that same speech, he decried giving tax breaks and said, “We will just tax every air conditioner that you send up from Mexico”—exactly the opposite of what is happening now, Robert.
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Right. And, you know, there are a lot of things that could be done, in this particular case, without paying bribes. As you point out, the parent company basically feeds from the Defense Department, so this is a government-dependent company. It’s one of the ones over which the U.S. government has the most leverage, without paying bribes, if it chooses to exert it. And Trump didn’t do that.
AMY GOODMAN: And then the issue of what exactly are all the promises that were made to these companies—again, promises that Donald Trump himself has decried over and over again, saying companies should be punished, not be rewarded by tax breaks, when they leave the country. But, of course, Carrier, owned by one of the most powerful weapons manufacturers in the United States, United Technologies, if there were any promises of military contracts to come, how will we find these things out, Rob Weissman?
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, we’re going to investigate. We will, and reporters are going to dig in. We don’t know if we’ll ever really know. You know, it’s not plausible that the CEO of the company said—made an investment decision to move production and was talked out of it by the president. It’s just not how things work. So, either there’s some deal on the side, which we’re going to try really hard to ferret out, or it’s an illusory promise. You have a big press conference, you wait a few months or a year, and you do what you were going to do anyway. But you don’t make investment decisions based on being whispered to by the president.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk about—well, you blogged about this, Robert, saying that the president-elect has the most serious conflicts of interest in U.S. history. We’re going to talk about, one by one, what are those conflicts and what you feel needs to be done. We’re talking to Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. His recent piece for The Huffington Post_, “Trump’s Corporate Takeover of Federal Agencies.” His recent piece13125228.html, “Trump’s Conflicts of Interest are Unprecedented in American History.” Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “And That’s When Fidel Arrived” by Carlos Puebla. Fidel Castro died on November 25th at the age of 90. His ashes will be buried in a funeral ceremony on Sunday morning next to José Martí. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
During his visit to Carrier Thursday, Donald Trump spoke about seeing a supporter on the news who believed Trump’s campaign promise to keep the plant in Indiana.
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: He said something to the effect, “No, we’re not leaving, because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving.” And I never thought I made that promise, not with Carrier. I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier. And I said, “What’s he saying?” And he was such a believer. He was such a great guy. He said, “I’ve been with Donald Trump from the beginning.” And he made the statement that Carrier is not going anywhere, they’re not leaving. And I’m saying to myself, “Man.” And then they played my statement. And I said, “Carrier will never leave.” But that was a euphemism. I was talking about Carrier like all other companies from here on in, because they made the decision a year and a half ago. But he believed that that was—and I could understand it. I actually said I didn’t make it. When they played it, I said I did make it, but I didn’t mean it quite that way.