My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
President-elect Donald Trump has been busily preparing to assume the role to which he was elected. So far his choices to fill his cabinet have been terrific, but his populist economic authoritarianism bodes ill for Americans and Americanism.
Last week, before even getting into office, Trump fulfilled one of his campaign promises when he announced that he had reached a deal with Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana that Carrier said they would be moving to Mexico. In the deal, Carrier is taking advantage of some economic incentives worth about $7 million in exchange for more than half a billion dollars in paychecks for their American workers. It sounds like a good deal for Indiana, America and Carrier. Chalk up a political win for Trump.
But in that political win are the seeds of despotism. While it appears that Carrier settled for a fairly scant economic incentive package for keeping so many jobs in the country, the other side of the equation is much more ominous. Behind the incentives were the threat of retribution from the Trump Administration should Carrier not bow to Trump’s political wishes. Trump has also promised a 35 percent tariff on goods manufactured by companies who move jobs overseas.
Lest one thinks that “retribution” is too strong a word, it is exactly the word that Trump used this weekend. In a series of tweets, he said, “Any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG! There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35% for these companies.”
Apparently when Donald Trump fervently promised to build a wall at America’s border to the raucous cheers of his supporters, he failed to mention that the wall would also be used to keep Americans in.
Trump also spent some time singling out and threatening a Wisconsin company with his style of retribution. Rexnord has decided to close its plant in Indiana and move the manufacturing to Mexico.
The decline of manufacturing in the U.S. has been occurring for decades due to a variety of reasons — mostly global economic forces over which the United States can only exert influence around the margins. The problem with Trump’s response to those economic forces is that he has decided to use the power of the presidency to bully and punish individual companies for their actions because they do not conform to his political objectives. That is not an economic policy. It is economic tyranny.
It should go without saying, but apparently it must be reiterated. The role of the government in a free nation is to create and protect a stable legal and economic framework in which the people can thrive. The government should maintain a rational monetary policy, enforce contracts, enact a reasonable tax structure, ensure the safe transport of goods, and generally stay out of the way.
It is not the role of government in a free nation for a president to arbitrarily target companies that make decisions with which the Dear Leader disagrees for retribution and punishment. The arbitrary use of the coercive power of government to punish people for political reasons is something the late Fidel Castro did in communist Cuba. It is not something that should be welcomed in the United States of America.
Donald Trump has made some very positive decisions since being elected that portend an administration replete with competence and intelligence. Unfortunately, Trump’s own populist and vindictive tendencies may be the biggest drag on his administration’s potential.