“Nafta is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the U.S.,” said Beverly Anderson, a Scottsville councilwoman who worked at the town’s now-shuttered electric-motor plant for 28 years.
For millions of white working class Americans, a vote for Trump is a vote against NAFTA, which one economist estimates has cost 850,000 Americans their jobs. That job loss causes a ripple effect that cuts wages for everyone without a college degree.
Amid the rugged cattle farms that dot the hills of southern Kentucky, in a clearing just beyond the Smoke Shack BBQ joint and the Faith Baptist Church, lie the remains of the A.O. Smith electric-motor factory.
It’s been eight years since the doors were shuttered. The building’s blue-metal facade has faded to a dull hue, rust is eating away at scaffolding piled up in the back lot and crabgrass is taking over the lawn. At its zenith, the plant employed 1,100 people, an economic juggernaut in the tiny town of Scottsville, population 4,226.
Randall Williams and his wife, Brenda, were two of those workers. For three decades, they helped assemble the hermetically sealed motors that power air conditioners sold all across America. At the end, they were each making $16.10 an hour. That kind of money’s just a dream now: Randall fills orders at a local farm supply store; Brenda works in the high school cafeteria. For a while, he said, their combined income didn’t even add up to one of their old factory wages.
Politicians “keep saying things are going to get better,” [Williams, 60] said while waiting for customers to show up at the farm supply store on a recent weekday afternoon. “They’re not going to get better.”
Jeff Woods is still angry, too, about A.O. Smith’s departure. His mother had worked at the factory. Today, she’s a pharmacy technician, making a fraction of her old wage. “Somebody works there all their life and you get to be 50-something-years-old and your income gets cut in half because the place moves to Mexico,” he said. “That’s not right.”
Woods played it coy when asked which candidate he backed. He wouldn’t outright say, but he went on to speak glowingly about just one of them—the one who’s not a career politician and who says he’ll crack down on illegal immigrants and bring jobs back to America.
The 89% Pay Cut That Brought Trump-Mania to America’s Heartland [Thomas Black & Isabella Cota – Bloomberg Business]