By STEVE SHERMAN || Sometimes a press release isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That’s how I feel about the recent announcement that Samsung would open a manufacturing facility in South Carolina. Samsung has a long history of gaming the system for their gain alone. Forgive me if I have major doubts that they have a genuine interest in forging a long-term relationship with South Carolina.
For years, the South Korean conglomerate has been hopping from one country to the next to take advantage of lower wages and lax regulations and to stay a step ahead of U.S. trade regulators. Now that President Donald Trump is taking real steps to make sure the company plays by existing trade rules, they suddenly have an interest in making products here in the United States.
Obviously, I welcome any investments in the great state of South Carolina. Especially if those investments result in real jobs, but something about the Samsung announcement doesn’t feel right. After all, this is the same company that has been selling consumer appliances in the U.S. at a loss just to snuff out American manufacturers. They got caught flooding the U.S. market with artificially cheap washing machines a few years ago and just picked up and moved production from South Korea and Mexico to China. They got caught again and moved to Vietnam and Thailand.
Do you see the pattern? Rather than play by the rules, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build new facilities, train new workers and recreate their supply chain just so they could undercut American and European manufacturers long enough that they put those companies out of business or force them to unload their washing-machine divisions.
Samsung is one of the most profitable companies in the world, so they can easily afford to lose money on a few product lines to build a monopoly in five to 10 years.
They might make a few of those products in the United States. The more likely scenario is that they will either abandon these plans once the headlines fade or use their new South Carolina facility to finish assembling appliances that were made primarily overseas. Most South Carolinians of a certain age saw this same scenario play out in the textile industry. Socks and T-shirts once made in South Carolina eventually gave way to socks and T-shirts made in other countries. As part of the “Made in America” ruse, some companies used barren factories here in the U.S. to sew labels on garments mostly made in other countries. They could then say the shirt or underwear was “Made in America.” Eventually all that production migrated to other countries.
This is how American manufacturing jobs migrate to other countries, and sadly, our politicians too often go along for the ride. Newly elected Republican Rep. Ralph Norman made just such a blunder. Hopefully, it was just a “Rookie Mistake.” He recently stood up for Samsung at a hearing to address the company’s habitual violations of U.S. trade rules. In his campaign earlier this summer, Norman cast himself as a Trump Republican who ran against cronyism. As a state legislator, he voted against $40 million in flood relief for South Carolina farmers and state bonds to help Boeing develop an aerospace facility in North Charleston. Given that record, it’s a little odd he would support cronies from Korean instead.
One of the reasons Trump dominated this state is because so many South Carolinians have taken it on the chin as the result of globalization. I will applaud Samsung, if they are committed to building a sustainable presence here in South Carolina. But my concern is that this is a short-term play intended to mislead President Trump and other policymakers in Columbia and Washington. When a company like Samsung claims to actually care about American workers when, in fact, they are taking aggressive steps to undercut them, the wolf in sheep’s clothing comes to mind. Trump sounds like he sees this media ploy for the sham it is. Let’s hope other policymakers wise up, too, before another round of factory closures put more Americans out of a job.
Steve Sherman graduated from the University of Iowa. Steve is an author, popular radio commentator, and former House candidate. His articles have appeared nationally in both print and online. His most recent novel, titled Mercy Shot, can be found on Amazon or atwww.scsherman.com.
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