Ivanka Trump made what was essentially a campaign stop for her father, President Trump, at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Despite some Internet-led backlash to the President’s daughter and personal adviser getting one of the select keynote speaking slots at CES, a decades-old show that, like tech at large, is very short on female representation, Trump got a round of applause and some whistles when she took the stage. Her roughly 40 minutes on it seemed a carefully curated conversation of the administration’s efforts on U.S. workers. Such a subject makes sense, as some of the criticism around her speaking at all had to do not with politics, per se, but her tenuous, at best, expertise in technology.
Of particular focus for Trump were workers at the lower-wage or blue-collar level, arguably her father’s main focus for voter turnout. Trump talked of efforts around training school-age children in STEM fields in states like Michigan, “upskilling” or retraining current workers and the unemployed in states like Indiana, along with the purported success of massive tax cuts for corporations and broad deregulation efforts. None of it got any pushback from interviewer Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that puts on CES.
“There’s really never been a better time to be working in America today,” Trump said onstage in Las Vegas, where her father still owns a hotel and casino, wearing a navy pinstriped suit with an oversize white silk lapel and stilettos. Although she’s only ever worked for her father or on her own brand, Trump spoke extensively about blue-collar workers in the U.S. and all that the current administration is doing to increase their wages and retrain them for jobs in an increasingly tech-driven world.
“It’s well-known that for the past 14-plus months, more job vacancies exist than unemployed Americans — of all the people who’ve secured jobs, 73 precent were on the sidelines, totally out of the workforce,” Trump said. “And they’re coming back in part because of the work we’re doing.”
She claimed that wages for blue-collar workers in particular are increasing at a record clip, citing business incentives for the private sector the Trump administration has created, like money for apprentice and retraining programs for skilled work. But the question of actual wage increases is one of the many things to be politicized. If you ask Sen. Bernie Sanders, wages, adjusted for inflation, haven’t risen since the Seventies. If you ask a Trump, wages are rising faster than ever.
According to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan fact-checking site using federal data, the dollar amount of wages has increased 2.4 percent since Trump took office. But that number also grew 4.9 percent during President Obama’s last term as president, and it also grew under presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. However, when adjusted for inflation and actual purchasing power, wages indeed peaked in 1974. That year, inflation-adjusted average weekly earnings for a typical worker were $330, in 2019, that same number was actually $315 a week.
Shapiro for his part made no attempt to disagree with Trump’s assertions on stage. He instead praised her enthusiasm for worker issues, calling it “contagious,” propped her up to speak about the expanded paid parental leave she championed for federal workers and the many private companies the administration has gotten to pledge to join a program for retraining workers in new skills. Salesforce is part of the effort and founder and co-ceo Mark Benioff was in the audience for Trump’s talk. Apple ceo Tim Cook is also part of another White House working group on jobs, Trump pointed out. She also mentioned a few times her father’s support of STEM education for children and the $200 million in federal funding the administration released to promote it in schools, said to be focused on girls and minorities.
The only potentially sticky question was around immigration. Shapiro brought it up in the context of his mother and Trump’s mother being immigrants, along with his wife, and asked how “the pipeline” of immigration can be kept open. Despite her father implementing a “family separation” policy for immigrants crossing the southern border in the U.S. that saw at least 4,000 children parted from their parents, many who have not been reunited, according to court documents from the White House, Trump passed over that controversy. She pushed a more palatable line of the U.S. wanting skilled immigrants to stay in the U.S.
“The President thinks it’s absolutely insane that we educate immigrants from across the world and then, as they’re about to start their businesses, we throw them out,” Trump said. “If you compare that system to that of our neighbors to the north, Canada, it’s crazy. I think we have bipartisan agreement that [immigration] needs to be overhauled.”
But Trump came back quickly to the core of her father’s slogan of “America First,” noting even the issue of immigration “can’t displace the investment that needs to be made for marginalized Americans.”
“We need to recruit and retain the best talent in the world, but we need to invest in Americans, we can’t just seek to import that.”
In the end, Shapiro made a point to note that the CTA “wants to work with you” and expressed his hope that Trump’s focus on jobs will continue “no matter who is president in the future.”
Trump left it at: “If we can’t come together on this, we can’t come together on anything.” She got another round of applause.
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