It’s nearly October and, even in the midst of a year unlike any other in recent memory, some things haven’t changed. There’s still a chill starting to cut through the air. The Eagles are still the most baffling team in the NFL. And we’re entering the home stretch of a presidential election — with all the ads, events and yard signs that entails.
There may be no day where that becomes more apparent to Lancaster residents than today. This evening, President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will appear on stage for their first general election debate; meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence will come to Lititz to speak at a debate watch party.
Onstage and at the watch party, you can probably guess what Trump and Pence will say — after all, it’s the same stuff they told us four years ago when they were running for president the first time. Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians, they were lying to us then, and they’re still lying to us now. Four years in, we’ve seen Trump and Pence make promise after promise, and break them time after time.
Let’s look at Trump’s record on manufacturing. In 2016, Trump came to Pennsylvania for one of his rallies and told us to our faces that “we’re going to bring back our manufacturing, we’re going to bring back our jobs that formed the backbone of the American middle class.”
Nearly four years into his time in office, that’s simply not true; currently, there are 25,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania than there were when Trump took office.
And before Pence tries to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse, remember that this is a trend that stretches back to before any of us had heard of the novel coronavirus. Last year, the average number of manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania was lower under the Trump-Pence administration than it was under the Obama-Biden administration.
And in January, before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in America, manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania were still stagnant. Trump’s plans for manufacturing jobs here in the Keystone State have gone horribly wrong, and he can’t try to pin this on the pandemic.
It’s been no better for Pennsylvania’s farmers under Trump, either. He insisted that his trade war with China would be great for farmers, and a lot of growers here in Lancaster County and across the country took him at his word.
But Trump’s fight with China has been a disaster, and it’s been our family farms that have been stuck with the bill. The administration’s efforts haven’t delivered meaningful help for the farmers who need it. One-time payments won’t make up for farmers’ efforts over decades to build markets overseas for their crops. Funds from bailout programs find their way into the pockets of big agriculture companies with teams of lobbyists.
As a result, farm bankruptcies were up by 20% last year, many of them small farms that have been held by families for decades — and now can’t be passed along to their children.
And Trump simply doesn’t care. He thinks farmers “don't care if they get hurt,” and has claimed that the tariffs causing these bankruptcies are just a little “short term pain.”
Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the small farmers feeling the bite of the trade war “whiners.” The most helpful advice Perdue has been able to give to dairy farms getting squeezed by multinational corporations is to go out of business.
It’s always been clear that Trump just doesn’t get it. It’s even more clear now that we know — according to a report in The New York Times — that he paid only $750 a year in federal income taxes while he was running for president and during his first year in the White House. Many years, he paid even less.
Our workers and farmers scrimp and save every year to make sure that they can pay taxes, even while dealing with Trump’s harmful policies that have made it even harder to stay afloat. But while they try to just break even in most years, they’ve still paid more in taxes than the self-proclaimed billionaire in the White House.
Enough is enough. Some things haven’t changed at all this fall, but a lot of things have, and at least one more thing needs to — this November, we need to make sure that Donald Trump and Mike Pence get the boot from office.
Nancy Patton Mills is the chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.