By John Krull
Not long before Congress voted on the tax reform, I talked, over the air, with two former Rexnord employees.
Rexnord, you may recall, had a plant in Indiana that made metal bearings. The company closed the plant in June, costing 300 Hoosiers their jobs.
Most of those jobs moved to the company’s plant in Mexico, where wages are much, much lower.
When he was campaigning for president here in Indiana, Donald Trump promised to save jobs such as these. After he was elected, Trump made a splash by brokering a deal that would “save” many of the jobs lost in a similar move by Carrier.
Since that announcement, many of those “saved” jobs have evaporated.
The guys from Rexnord I talked with on the radio just used their first names, Tim and John. I’ll honor that here.
They both lost their jobs in the move.
Tim, 52, has found another job, but it’s not like the one he had at Rexnord. It pays only 80 percent of what his old job did, and the benefits, he said, aren’t nearly as good. He and his wife have had to adjust their lifestyle accordingly.
Still, he said, “I’m fortunate to have a paycheck so we can keep our heads above water.”
John, 48, hasn’t been so fortunate.
He doesn’t have a job. He draws unemployment compensation, but that sum doesn’t lift his family over the poverty line.
When he worked at Rexnord, he had two children in college. They since have had to leave school, because the family no longer can afford the expense.
He said the strain on his family has been intense.
Both men scoffed when I asked them about securing retraining designed to get them new and different jobs. They said that, while there is money available to pay for that training, there isn’t any funding available to keep their families afloat while they’re going to school.
Tim said he can’t afford to give up his job, even though it pays far less than he’s used to, to get more training because doing so would bankrupt his family.
John said he would love to go to school, but his top priority is to find work of any kind so his children can resume their educations.
Both men expressed a sense of betrayal. They didn’t do anything wrong. They did their jobs. They worked hard. The company they worked for made money — lots of money.
That’s why, Tim said, he supports President Trump.
It’s time, Tim argued, to put America and Americans first.
And that’s why I paid close attention to the tax reform battle.
I watched to see when guys like Tim and John were going to see their faith in President Trump and other leaders rewarded. I waited to see when this nation’s leaders — Republican or Democrat — would devote some care and attention to these guys’ needs.
I waited in vain.
I saw the president and his fellow Republicans reward companies such as Rexnord and Carrier with a 40 percent tax cut — down from 35 percent to 21 percent. I watched while they voted to deny 13 million Americans healthcare, with 4 million of them losing those benefits almost immediately.
And I saw U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, take a “principled” stand against the tax bill because it would add nearly $1.5 trillion to the national debt — and then saw him do an about-face when a last-minute change in the bill put more than $1 million in his own pocket.
Partisans of both sides want to make this discussion about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.
But it isn’t about them.
Or, at least it shouldn’t be.
It should be about guys like Tim and John and the millions of other Americans who are terrified. They’re terrified that not just their lives but the lives of their children and grandchildren are about to take a long hard fall from which they may never recover.
Where’s their 40 percent tax cut? Who’s going to care for them if they get sick? When do they get their sweetheart deals like Bob Corker did?
Who’s going to speak for them?
Who’s going to stand up for them?
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. Send comments to email@example.com.