When Donald Trump is really rockin,’ he turns TV News into something vastly more popular, “reality” TV. The people who own and run the TV industry love this particular alchemy, and they pay for it in their own currency, air time.
It is, after all, the very definition of great television, which is to say, it’s what people want to watch.
A perfect example would be the recent “reality” masterpiece, Saving Jobs at the Carrier Plant, starring Donald Trump. On December 1, as the video streamed across TV, computer, tablet and smartphone screens, the President-elect and his usual convoy of White Guys in Suits marched into the Carrier plant on the west side of Indianapolis and proclaimed he had saved 1100 jobs that had been ticketed for Mexico. As Trump explained it, he had triumphed by waving a big stick, the threat of a 35% tariff on goods exported to America by companies that had exported the jobs that produced the goods. And, he added, he and his pal, the Vice President-elect and still Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence were offering United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, a little carrot as well, a $7 million tax break.
In effect, since it turns out the latest count is that only 730 jobs have been saved, that Indiana taxpayers are on the hook for just under $1000 a year for each of the saved employees.
This is what some very rich guys do, you’re entering a building and he looks at the doorman and says to you, “He’s doing a great job, give him $10.” Trump’s tip, your — or in this case — Indiana’s money.
And for all the live and resurrected coverage, what we are talking about, at the Presidential and Corporate level, is tip money. $7 million to Carrier, child of United Technologies whose 2015 annual sales, according to their official report, were $56 Billion…a revenue stream that predicted, the corporate report said that between 2015 and 2017, $22 Billion would be paid out to share-holders.
Keep those big numbers in mind for perspective, because the whole move to Mexico, is expected to save the company $65 million a year, not quite 1% of the shareholders’ payout.
But what television does best is make small things look big, by giving them its complete attention. And small things are what works best on TV, because the whole thing can be comprehended on that legendary “small screen.”
So, a small triumph in Indianapolis is a giant news-cycle-dominating epic in which the hero Trump saves the workers and rides off into the sunset, until tomorrow’s episode.
More numbers from Paul Krugman in the NY Times: the 730 Carrier jobs saved from export to Mexico exist in a universe of “145 American million workers, about 75,000 [of whom] lose their jobs every working day.”
Small triumph. Big payoff. Reports a poll done for the news platform Politico “Sixty percent of voters say that the Carrier deal gave them a more favorable view of Trump, 87 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of independents, and 40 percent of Democrats. Only nine percent say the deal made them view Trump less favorably.
But, long before President-elect Trump produced his Carrier story for national TV, industrial job losses from Indiana to Mexico was a huge story on local TV News. I know that because of the huge amounts of time our guest Rafael Sanchez of RTV6 News, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis, got to do the story…lots of time to work on it, and lots of air time to tell people about it.
Rafael Sanchez is the Chief Investigative Reporter for RTV6 News, the ABC TV affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sanchez spearheaded the investigation into Carrier’s intended exodus from Indianapolis beginning last February when a video of the announcement to the employees went viral. His pursuit of the story was so comprehensive, featuring a trip to Monterrey, Mexico to assess the destination for close to 2000 Indiana manufacturing jobs, that the company barred him from Donald Trumps’ news conference about saving –as it turned out — about Carrier/ Indianapolis 800 jobs.