Donald Trump

Trump vs. the Business Community

Obama was not the friend CEOs think the president of the U.S. should be. But in Trump, they're finding out what it's like to have a real enemy.


Chris Kleponis/CNP/AdMedi/SIPA/Newscom

Most business executives fumed and groused for the eight years Barack Obama was in the White House. He was a former community organizer who had never met a payroll, and those in the corporate boardrooms thought he was no friend of free enterprise.

In 2010, New York real estate and media tycoon Mortimer Zuckerman said Obama's "demonization of business" was discouraging investment, sapping job growth and generally creating an "economic Katrina." Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, called Obama "the most anti-business president" in his lifetime. Former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch implored the president, "Stop it. You can't go industry by industry … through intimidation, business by business by business."

As ordeals go, though, theirs was notably mild. The stock market soared; corporate profits nearly tripled; and the unemployment rate declined from 7.8 percent to 4.8 percent. From the depths of the Great Recession, the economy began what is now the third-longest expansion on record. When it came to the economy, the Obama years looked more like Mardi Gras than Hurricane Katrina.

Now, instead of a liberal lawyer in the White House, CEOs have one of their own. And they're finding it's not everything they hoped. The stock market and other economic indicators look about the same as they did before Donald Trump took office. In Obama's final six months, the economy added an average of nearly 181,000 jobs per month. In Trump's first six months, it added 179,000 per month. GDP growth has even slowed a bit.

More troublesome at the moment is Trump's insistence on defending Confederate monuments and stoking white racial resentments. In recent days, so many CEOs resigned from the president's two business advisory councils that Trump closed them down. Some of the executives no doubt were genuinely upset at the president's coddling of bigots and his inability to behave with a dignity befitting his office. Some were fearful of alienating customers who find Trump toxic.

Other business executives are edging away from the president as though he were an erratic panhandler, and for the same reason: Best not to be close to him if he flips out. You don't want to have to stand there in silent mortification, as White House chief of staff John Kelly had to do the other day, while the president makes a fool of himself on national TV. It would not be good for your company or your career.

But even before Trump's Charlottesville debacle, he was not covering himself with capitalist glory. His January travel order put him at odds with some 100 tech firms that sued to block it, arguing, "It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies' ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States."

His decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord didn't go down well with many big companies, 25 of which had signed a letter urging him to stay in. Even oil giants Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips opposed the withdrawal. In abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Trump spurned the recommendation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His insistence on renegotiating NAFTA has the Big Three automakers worried about their supply chains.

A lot of executives applaud Trump's war on federal regulation. But what else has he done for them? His failures on Obamacare have generated uncertainty among insurance companies and health care providers. His sour relations with Congress make tax reform less plausible every day. Infrastructure is what he was supposed to focus on Tuesday when he appeared before reporters at Trump Tower. But he buried that issue by venting about Charlottesville.

Perhaps worst of all, he has been the arrogant bully that Jack Welch and others accused Obama of being. Trump slammed Boeing over the cost of Air Force One. He blasted Ford over a planned factory in Mexico. He has repeatedly attacked CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. He went after Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's products. When Merck's Kenneth Frazier quit his manufacturing advisory group Monday, Trump flamed him for "ripoff drug prices."

His recurring message is that any executive who doesn't do as Trump wishes can expect retribution from the most powerful man on earth. Obama was not the friend CEOs think the president of the United States should be. But in Trump, they're finding out what it's like to have a real enemy.


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  1. “When it came to the economy, the Obama years looked more like Mardi Gras than Hurricane Katrina”

    Thanks to a boom in prescription opioid sales.

    1. And in gun sales.

      1. That Obama never really made any real effort to stop, despite all the “‘dey gonna take’r guns” panic that drove up prices for no good reason. Also gun sales don’t amount to a drop in the ocean when you take GDP into account as a whole.

        1. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!

    2. And military hardware, in particular drone sales.

    3. That pretty much narrows down where Chapman lives and works to a few counties.

    4. And in new auto sales since hundreds of thousands of vehicles that would have been available on the used market magically disappeared.

  2. His recurring message is that any executive who doesn’t do as Trump wishes can expect retribution from the most powerful man on earth. Obama was not the friend CEOs think the president of the United States should be. But in Trump, they’re finding out what it’s like to have a real enemy.

    Here’s the deal though;

    1. The President of the United States has never been the most powerful person in the world. Never. Putin has more power than the President. The head of state of a dozen other countries have more power than the POTUS. He’s not even the most powerful person in the United States.

    2. The reason all his bluster is *embarrassing* is because he actually has pretty much no power to retaliate at all. None.

    When we said he wouldn’t be able to get anything done we meant *anything done*. He can threaten on Twitter all he wants – nobody cares. Like literally. The only guy he’s got as an agency head who would have just jumped all over the chance to screw over his political enemies for more personal power (Sessions) he’s managed to alienate.

    I knew this whole cycle would be a dumpster fire but I’ll admit I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. This is what you get when a person is surrounded by people who can’t say ‘no’. This is what its like behind the scenes of the Clinton campaign.

    1. Obama was pretty powerful because he had the bureaucracy, corporate media, and Si valley gatekeepers on his side.

      Trump is only powerless because of an open revolt in the bureaucracy, Obama-packed courts, and constant harassment from the media and SV.

      1. You forgot to mention his worst enemy, himself. 😀

      2. This is why I tend to prefer Republican Presidents. They don’t have the additional leverage of a compliant media and somewhat enthusiastic bureaucracy behind them.

      3. People generally aren’t keen to be led by an idiot. Except the Trump corps, they accept whatever their dear leader is tweeting about today.

  3. Anyone else notice that they have to hide Chapman’s byline on the front page as “Reason Staff,” probably in order to get anyone to click on his articles?

    1. All of the articles originally from Reason magazine arrive on the blog under the Reason Staff byline. Do try to keep up, old chap.

  4. One day they’re A Nest of Crony Capitalists, next day they’re The Business Community. I guess it depends on whether its an article whooping up libertarianism or one bashing Trump.

    Any stick will do to beat a dog.

    1. Any stick will do to beat a dog.

      But what about dead horses?

    2. “Any stick will do to beat a dog.”

      At this point…. is it not a dead horse?

  5. “The stock market and other economic indicators look about the same as they did when Donald Trump took office.” Nice try Steve, but the relevant starting point is when Trump was elected, not when he took office. Since that point only nine months ago the S&P 500 is up 14%.

    1. Even the lefty media (besides Reason) have admitted that Since Trump was elected the stock market has had greater gains than Obama’s first 6 months since he was elected.

    2. Dude, the stock market is going to tank soon. Trump supporters are going to regret putting out the S&P as the measure of the president’s performance.

      1. Dude, moving goalposts is just as easy as picking cherries, when the stock market tanks they’ll be up to the task.

      2. Dude, this has nothing to do with my point.

        1. Dude, that’s just like your opinion, man.

          1. Whoa, guy, let the dude have his opinion, man.

      3. The stock market isn’t going to tank soon. Maybe in 2 or 3 years. You aren’t very economically astute are you?

  6. “…and the unemployment rate declined from 7.8 percent to 4.8 percent. From the depths of the Great Recession, the economy began what is now the third-longest expansion on record. “
    Unemployment numbers were higher under Obama as people who quit looking for work were not longer considered unemployed. So that number is a lie. All administrations do it but there were record numbers of people during the Great recession who just stopped looking.

    Certain states had fast recovery from the Great Recession, while other states slowly recovered or have never recovered.

    Chapman, its like you’re not even trying to accurately make a point.

    1. It’s too bad though Obama was not made to pay for his anti-free enterprise/capitalist screeds.

      But I agree, these days, you have to scrutinize economic data a little more. Like analytics taught us there’s more to a batter’s ability than BA through stuff like OPS, it’s the same with the economy. Unemployment numbers on its face don’t reflect things as accurately as we think if we look at things like labour participation.

      And this thing of the stock markets did well ergo Obama was good for the economy is bull shit largely because we’re in a low interest-rate environment. People are taking risks. The markets sure as hell didn’t think it was because Obama was a pro-business genius. One little thing like that can have a major impact.

  7. We all knew Trump was a liberal democrat at heart.


    1. Not a “liberal” democrat-but a big gov, populist Democrat that the South and Rust Belt states produced regularly 60 years ago. Not so much now. Elizabeth Warren and Co. took over the Ds. Trump is George Wallace redux

  8. You fucking kidding me? Big business LOVED Obama. Look at his contributions from Wall Street. Look at how many of his administration’s members got cushy sinecure jobs in the “private sector” after “leaving to spend more time with family”. Easy money, bailouts left and right, targeted tax breaks, and byzantine regulations to strangle their smaller competitors — what’s not to love?

    Big business and big government are BFFs. This cannot be repeated often enough.

    1. And both aren’t friends to small business. People think big business are naturally aligned with SME’s but they’re not. Like you said, big government and corporations are. Easier to monopolize and cronyism.

    2. Well put….

    3. Exactly, it really is “do you prefer your soup lukewarm or at room temperature?”

  9. These business leaders may be CEOs of some big corporations, but Trump’s the CEO of the whole country. The capo di tutti capo, as the Italians say. Not that I’m comparing Trump to a Mafia boss, of course. No, in the intersection of government and business where private businesses remain private businesses only to the extent that they serve the interests of government, there’s another Italian word that fits the bill.

    1. Facia di culo?

      Oh. Wait.


  10. Nothing about Obamas takeover of the auto industry and throwing a net over 1/5th of the US economy (healthcare)?

  11. Trump was never a serious businessman. He is a rich kid who knows how to squander billions without consequences.

    Trump is the self-proclaimed King of Debt. If you owe the bank 10 thousand, you have a problem. If you owe the bank 10 billion, the bank has a problem.

    If you owe 10 trillion, “just print the money”.

    Obama was an economic disaster. He laid the groundwork for a centrally planned economy based on debt and money printing. Consolidation at the top, monopolies like Amazon and rising inequality are the result.

    Trump is a continuation of the Obama era, but the Obama bubbles will burst under Trump. Conservatives and, by association, libertarians will be blamed.

    America will go Venezuela-style socialist in the decades after 2020.

    1. “Obama was an economic disaster. He laid the groundwork for a centrally planned economy based on debt and money printing.”

      As much as I think Obama was indeed a finance, business and economic illiterate who viewed it more from an ideological perspective and as much as I loathed him for it and consider him a low point in American governance, I don’t think we can pin that on him as I believe that motion was already set. Hey, people argue it started with the establishment of the Fed Reserve.

      Trump is the continuation of Obama just like Obama was the continuation of Bush. I laugh at people who think there was any difference between Obama and Bush; to do so is to root for team colours.

      “I hate that guy because he had guns! Now we have the guns so it’s all good.”

      1. Of course, GWB justified the bailouts as suspending capitalism to save capitalism – or something to that effect.

        1. ‘Sex to save the friendship’ as it were.

  12. Trump could sit back and do exactly as Obama did and not protect or even look at who was getting taking advantage of when making trade agreements – Trump sees that China exports to the US such as aluminum foil to the tune of billions is costing the United States and promoting China……

    All these riots and bull crap are all put on and staged to take focus off what is being found out about all the evil doings of the Obama and Clintons and so citizens will be outraged at the chaos they are staging that they created and so all things that help our economy and rid it of these thieves is put on the back burner so we can all get angry about what was created to take our focus off them.

  13. All Obama was put into office for was to build up black voters while he was in office so when Hilary ran for President she would get black Americas votes. That back-fired. All this racist crap is thrown up to public whenever there is heat on the government top dog criminals. The Public is smart enough to see through this scheme and see these people and their lack of concern for anyone but their own personal gain and power. They throw that racist card out every time and it is not even how the public thinks. That’s old school crap being re-vived by Clinton. Obama isn’t even Black – he’s Asian. Check him out. Wake-Up America. Trump is trying to put back what Obama and Clinton destroyed.

  14. Chapman clearly did not run a business during the Obama years. Or ever.

    And Trump’s “failures on Obamacare” are nothing compared to the destruction caused by Obama’s successes on Obamacare. What a damn moron.

  15. Tech companies are angry that the crony visa system isn’t going to work in their favor anymore.

    Ford? Boeing? TPP? Climate Accord? These are libertarian?

    A bunch of CEOs left a presidential council so they could virtue signal. Many CEOs are telling their customers not to shop at their companies if their customers like Trump.

    When these same companies lose market share because their customers take their advice, I’m sure Chapman/Gillespie will blame that on Trump too.

    Gotta get your invites to those DC cocktail parties somehow, right? TDS is a hell of a drug.

    Anybody know a better libertarian website out there? Reason is a dumpster fire. Too bad.

    1. Tech companies are angry that the crony visa system isn’t going to work in their favor anymore.

      It may not work as well currently, but things will calm down after a few years and it will be back to business as usual.

  16. The minority president has a long history of bullying those who are not able to defend themselves. In Las Vegas he attempted to prohibit his employees from unionizing, in New Jersey, he didn’t pay his emploees or vendors when his hotels and casinos declared bankruptcy even though he kept the huge managing fees he collected for running said properties into the ground, in Florida , he seeks waivers so that he needn’t hire Americans who would expect to be paid overtime and receive benefits, seeking to hire people from Hoonduras as literally, indentured workers, dependent upon him for their continued residence and employment. This record includes the many law suits he has brought against lenders or vendors seeking to avoid paying them what is due. There is also his twitter account which he uses to settle scores with everyone from campaign rivals to gold star families. Why would these chief executives expect him to behave any differently now that he is president? A bully is a bully, is a bully. They should not be surprised that he is performing as he always has and that they are deriving no benefit from any support they might have given him. When you dine with the devil bring a long spoon and when you attempt to deal with the Donald, watch your wallet.

  17. In regard to the economy and large businesses, Obama was like a child playing with wooden blocks and stuff and not noticing (or caring) about what other stuff got knocked down in the process.

    But Trump is like a child playing with concrete blocks, who throws those blocks at other people and their toys every time he gets mad.

    Obama was destructive mostly through carelessness plus not understanding what his actions did to the economy. (And not caring to learn.) Trump is intentionally destructive every time somebody does something he doesn’t like. And what he doesn’t like is rather unpredictable.

    At least Obama was (mostly) predicatable.

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