With the most recent Trump GM tweet reported by the Associated Press, Donald Trump engaged in yet another trademark Twitter rant. Trump’s assertion in this tweet that he plans to punish General Motors for producing some of its cars in Mexico and exporting them to the United States makes it clear that Trump hasn’t abandoned his policy of directly interfering in the business operations of United States companies – something Republicans would vehemently oppose if a Democrat was doing it.
Trump GM Tweet Precursors
It’s not like Trump hasn’t done this kind of thing before. As reported by CNN, Trump supposedly convinced the Carrier Corporation to seemingly keep some of the jobs in the United States it was otherwise going to send overseas. As it turned out, though, all of the tax breaks that Carrier received will be used to automate the factory in question – so almost none of the jobs will be saved and the government will actually subsidize Carrier’s automation scheme.
More recently, Trump appeared to have successfully bullied Ford Motor Company out of a plan to establish a new $1.6 billion manufacturing facility in Mexico. While this “success” may or may not be attributable to Trump – and may or may not help the United States hold on to jobs in the short run – it runs contrary to everything Republicans claim they have ever believed in regarding free trade and a free market economy.
Republicans – and many Democrats – have always believed that the economy should largely be allowed to follow the guidance of what Adam Smith referred to as the “invisible hand” of supply and demand. In other words, forcing companies to manufacture goods in places where it’s going to cost them more to do so would – at least in theory – lead to inflation and noncompetitive companies.
Whether one actually believes this is entirely accurate is beside the point. The real point is that Republicans have until Donald Trump always held the position that laissez-faire economics are central to having a healthy United States economy. Now, suddenly, they have embraced a candidate who believes he has both the right and the obligation to directly manage the business affairs of major American corporations like GM, Ford, and Carrier – as the Trump GM tweet makes clear.
An Overreach by Trump
GM tweet aside, will Donald Trump actually have the authority once he is inaugurated as president to arbitrarily impose taxes, tariffs, and sanctions on United States corporations that don’t abide by his personal wishes? The answer to this one is no. No president can arbitrarily impose punitive taxes and tariffs without congressional approval and appropriate legislation.
Of course, Donald Trump often seems a bit befuddled about the extent of his powers as president and what he is – and isn’t – allowed to do. Some of Trump’s own staffers have suggested that nothing Trump does as president could be considered illegal because he would be the president. This, of course, demonstrates the profound misunderstanding of the powers and authority of the presidency we once saw in Nixon.
Moreover, it represents a hypocritical position on the part of the Republicans, since they have been vocal in their opposition to the various executive orders issued by the Obama administration. In theory, Donald Trump will have every branch of government neatly in his pocket, so getting legislation passed through the Senate and the House – and approved by the Supreme Court if necessary – shouldn’t be much of a problem.
However, given that a number of Republicans in these bodies might have second thoughts about shifting their position 180 degrees on the matter of tariffs and free-trade, such legislation might not be that easily passed. The Trump GM tweet – and any forthcoming similar tweets – will only really matter in the long run if congressional Republicans are willing to abase themselves before Donald Trump.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]