Big business has long been a major backer of the Republican Party, and with the election of President Donald Trump, who has slashed regulations and corporate taxes, many industry leaders basked in the success of their brand of politics.
But now that Trump appears to be following through on his promises of a trade war, industry groups are spooked.
As Paul Krugman explained in a New York Times op-ed Thursday, big business is finally reaping what it has sowed. And we can tell big business is nervous because leaders are finally speaking out against Trump’s tariffs.
“I don’t think this is going to get resolved easily, and I think these tariffs are going to hurt the U.S. economy,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, to the Post.
“Major corporations and trade associations are sending letters to the administration warning that its policies will cost more jobs than they create,” Krugman writes. “Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has begun an advertising campaign to convince voters of the benefits of free trade.”
He adds: “Pathetic, isn’t it?”
Even as they’re now decrying Trump’s self-destructive policies, they deserve a fair share of the blame. Krugman explains:
For a long time business seemed to have this game under control: win elections with racial dog whistles, then turn to an agenda of tax cuts and deregulation. But sooner or later something like Trump was going to happen: a candidate who meant the racism seriously, with the enthusiastic support of the Republican base, and couldn’t be controlled.
Everyone knows the result of decades of coddling the most odious portions of the far-right: the rise of Trump. And big business also paved the way for Trump’s disastrous trade policies by endorsing ridiculous Republican theories of taxation — not believed by any credible economist — to pad their own pockets.
Now that Trump’s defiance of reasonable economic prudence poses a danger to their own bottom lines, businesses can’t credibly argue that the president should follow their advice.
“So they’ve already accepted the principle that it’s O.K. to talk economic nonsense if it’s politically convenient,” Krugman writes. “Now comes Trump with different nonsense, saying ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win.’ How can they convince anyone that his nonsense is bad, while theirs was good?”
And it may get even worse for big business, Krugman writes, because Trump has no qualms about going after particular industries or companies out of spite. By promoting the Republican Party, industry leaders have unleashed a monster they can no longer control.