The people who support Trump, as well as those who supported Bernie Sanders, are people who are suffering. Washington, D.C. has separated itself from the American people. I saw the beginning of that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when jobs began moving out of America to neighboring countries and the Far East because of corporate greed and trade agreements pushed by politicians of both parties.
At the innovative LED lighting company my wife and I founded in Torrance, California in 1983 – our American dream – I have tried to create and maintain jobs for American skilled workers. I was fairly successful for almost 30 years, until 3-4 years ago I faced a stark choice: shift the jobs of some of my loyal, long-term skilled employees to China, or shut down entirely. If I wanted to stay in business, I had no choice.
When the world is a global village, it’s a global market. When you have good relationships and a balanced approach, you can sell your products all over the world. You can have a win-win-win situation, but that has to be understood. In today’s America, the needed wisdom is not there.
When Trump started saying certain things in 2015, I started paying attention. As an American employer of American employees, I have suffered from job losses to China. I lost more than half of my long-term skilled employees to job exports, so I take these things very personally.
Regardless of how this election turns out, millions of people will vote for Trump. Those people are mostly blue- and white-collar workers who have been made jobless over the past several decades. Trump’s stupidities and bigotry are not the main reasons they’re flocking to his agenda. Those people are not visible to the lawmakers in Washington or to corporate America. Washington has not been seeing them or listening to them for several decades.
It’s a sickening feeling to watch this election play out. Hillary Clinton is the establishment. Trump is touching all the right nerves, but neither he nor Hillary has the ability to right the wrongs. The election – and the nation – are heading toward dangerous territory.
The agenda of America’s government should be to create a more balanced approach. The trend of exporting jobs has to be stopped. Some jobs are finally starting to come back, but no thanks to anyone in Washington. I’m starting to bring some jobs back myself, as one business owner. But Washington is driven by lobbyists, and lobbyists are driven by the giant corporations, and giant corporations are driven by the demands of their stockholders.
My effort as an American employer, both to save jobs and to create new ones, failed not because of anything I did wrong, but because of the politicians in Washington and the giant corporations they serve, who wanted to maximize their profits. In that process, both Washington and corporate America completely ignored America’s skilled working class – people whose lives had been structured for generations around manufacturing facilities in industrial cities and town across America.
Pervaiz Lodhie is founder and CEO of LEDtronics, a pioneering LED lighting company based in Torrance, California. He is currently writing an autobiography, Lighting the Way: An Innovator’s Journey in Pakistan and America.