Even before Donald Trump was sworn in to office, he began declaring victories on behalf of the American worker. The bizarre public relations campaign began in November, at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis, where he announced that his Art of the Deal-style negotiating skills had prevented 1,100 jobs from being sent to Mexico. In January, after Ford canceled plans to build a plant in Mexico, he tweeted, “This is just the beginning—much more to follow.” Weeks later, he delivered a speech in front of a South Carolina Boeing plant, during which he managed to make a sexist joke about how airplanes, unlike women, can still look good at the ripe old age of 30, and boasted, “My focus has been all about jobs, and jobs is one of the primary reasons I’m standing here today as your president, and I will never, ever disappoint you.” Seven, five, and a mere four months later, how are things working out at those companies? Let’s take a look!
Carrier, CNBC reported this week, will be laying off 600 employees over the next five months. Ford announced on Tuesday that it would be producing its Focus line in China. And Boeing, 16 weeks after Trump stood in front of a Boeing Dreamliner and declared himself the savior of the Working Man, confirmed Friday that it would be cutting 200 jobs at that very South Carolina plant.
Of course, it’s hardly fair to blame Trump for global, cyclical, and secular economic trends that are largely beyond his control. But then, it was hardly fair for Trump to try to take credit for every alleged bit of good job news, either. And hey, we’re willing to give Trump a pass on Carrier, Ford, and Boeing, so long as he can admit that all of his previous bogus “JOBS” announcements were fake news, too.
Don’t hold your breath: Trump, after all, cares about appearances first and substance last, or never, which is why he tasked his chief economic adviser and treasury secretary with rushing out a one-page, double-spaced bullet point “tax plan” so that he could claim to be making progress on tax reform (the theoretical bill, which has yet to be written, has been delayed until mid-September). It’s why he’s made a huge showing of signing a dozens of executive orders, which are mostly just directives for government agencies to review rules. It’s why his big, much-touted “Infrastructure Week” amounted to, essentially, a call to privatize air-traffic control and a speech in which he held up a big binder then dropped it on the floor for effect. It’s why he took credit for saving 20,000 jobs that were actually saved months before he was elected. It’s why he strangely claimed that his trip to Saudi Arabia saved “millions” of jobs (a stat he upgraded from “thousands” in a matter of 24 hours, because why not.)
Still, it’s actually sort of amazing to behold the pace at which his stunts have fallen apart. Memo to the employees of the next company at which he shows up: take cover.
If you would like to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe.
Of course Trump’s commerce secretary built a wall that violated zoning laws in the Hamptons
We apologize if we’re started to sound like a broken record but on John Jacob Astor’s grave, billionaire Wilbur Ross is one of Donald Trump’s most perfect Cabinet picks: a real life, time-traveling 19th-century robber baron who for the life of him still can’t wrap his head around why history treated Marie Antoinette so unfairly. To recap, Ross, whose net worth hovers around $2.5 billion:
Tried to kill a story about his secret Wall Street fraternity’s annual event, which consisted of off-color jokes, hazing rituals, and a drag show that involved singing about seven-figure bonuses;
Commissioned a pair of custom-made $500 velvet slippers with the Commerce Department stitched on the toes;
Complained on Bloomberg TV that the “1 percent is picked on . . . for political reasons,” and that poor people could easily join his tax bracket if they wanted to (“Education is the way that people get out of the ghetto”);
Described a U.S. airstrike as “after-dinner entertainment” for the paying guests at Mar-a-Lago;
Returned from Trump’s big trip abroad to praise the lack of protesters in Saudia Arabia, where protesters are executed;
And, just this week, pitched an evening of “cocktails and hors d’oeuvres” as a way to convince people to work in factories.
So while it’s a relatively small signifier of being a wildly out-of-touch rich person, we were thrilled to learn Friday that Ross had previously ticked that all-important box of pissing off one’s neighbors in the Hamptons by violating zoning laws. Per the New York Daily News:
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross once built an illegal wall on the perimeter of his swanky Southampton estate to block the noise from the American Indian reservation across the street and the traffic along Montauk Highway. When the billionaire Cabinet member was told he couldn’t have the wall, he waged a three-year legal battle with the local zoning board of appeals that he ultimately lost . . . The wealthy investor applied for a variance with the town’s zoning board of appeals in January 2001, shortly after purchasing the home for $1.35 million. To bolster his case, he hired an acoustic expert, who found that noise levels in his yard were as much as four times louder than the local ordinance would permit at night. When the board took too long to hear his application, Ross pre-emptively built the barrier— a 6-foot fence on top of a 3-foot berm along the property line adjacent to Montauk Highway.
Naturally, that didn’t sit well with the board, and Ross ultimately sold the house for $4 million, $2.65 million more than what he paid for it.
Al Gore can’t catch a break, quote of the day edition
“Al Gore has come into you fellas business . . . He has made $3 or $400 million in your business. And he’s not very smart,” Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger reportedly told a small group of investors at the annual Daily Journal meeting. “He had one obsessive idea that global warming was a terrible thing . . . So his idea when he went into investment counseling is he was not going to put any CO2 in the air . . . he found some partner to go into investment counseling with and says we’re not going to have any (carbon dioxide). But this partner is a value investor and a good one. So what they did is, is Gore hired staff to find people who didn’t put CO2 in the air. Of course that put him into services. Microsoft and all these service companies were just ideally located. And this value investor picked the best service companies. So all of a sudden the clients are making hundreds of millions of dollars and they are paying part of it to Al Gore. Al Gore has hundreds of millions [of] dollars in your profession. And he’s an idiot. It’s an interesting story. And a true one.”
Hedge fund manager’s attempt at humor lands . . . poorly
Yikes, Bill Ackman:
The altercation occurred at this year’s SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference, a popular Wall Street confab held in May and started by hedge-fund impresario Anthony Scaramucci. Both Joe Biden and Ackman were featured speakers during the event. During a private V.I.P. dinner that night the question of why Biden didn’t run for president in 2016 was raised once again, by former Florida governor and 2016 G.O.P. presidential contender Jeb Bush, who asked Biden, “Why didn’t you run?”
Biden explained that part of the decision stemmed from the death of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015. The room grew quiet as Biden became emotional, and said: “I’m sorry . . . I’ve said enough.” That’s when Ackman blurted out “Why? That’s never stopped you before.”
The formal, and understated dinner conversation suddenly turned tense, according to three people who were present and confirmed both the substance and the wording of Biden’s responses.
Biden, these people say, turned to someone seated near him, and asked, “Who is this asshole?,” referring to Ackman.
Ackman was most recently in the news for losing $4 billion on his Valeant investment, so perhaps this is a sign he should just sit out the rest of 2017.
Steven Mnuchin’s fiancée accidentally makes the case for higher taxes (The Hive)
Britain’s Financial Power Is Already Seeping Away (Bloomberg)
Big Banks Clear First Phase of Federal Reserve Stress Tests (N.Y.T.)
Short-Seller Nailed Home Capital, Then Got Stung by Buffett (Bloomberg)
Can Uber Ever Make Money? (Financial Times)
Has Silicon Valley Finally Jumped the Shark? (The Hive)
Madoff Clients Fighting for Their Fortunes Get a Hand — From Madoff (Bloomberg)
When Helicopter Parents Hover Even at Work (N.Y.T.)
NASA Fact Checks Goop Over Wearable Body Stickers (Vanities)
Octopus, Seal Duke It Out in Ocean Fight (Toronto Sun)