Donald Trump’s first economic policy call

Yesterday, I wrote about what appears to be Donald Trump’s first foreign policy call — a telephone conversation with the Taiwanese president that signals to China the possibility of closer relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. I argued that this was a good call.

I take the deal Trump worked out with Carrier to keep about 1,000 jobs in the U.S. to be the president-elect’s first economic policy call. How should we assess this call?

Yuval Levin assesses it harshly. He writes:

Republicans in Congress should ask themselves what they would be saying now if Hillary Clinton had been elected and then began threatening and shaming companies when she didn’t like their perfectly legal business practices, making individual “deals” with individual companies who do a lot of business with the government to “persuade” them to change decisions about where to place factories in return for taxpayer-funded benefits (before even being vested with any formal authority), and claiming she would use trade policy and the tax code (including highly regressive tariffs that punish consumers) as weapons against corporations that locate some operations abroad.

Whatever they would have said then they should say now. I’m guessing it would have included “industrial policy,” “central planning,” “picking winners and losers,” and “cronyism” at the very least, and rightly so.

(Emphasis added).

I agree. As Rich Lowry says, “openly threatening companies for making business decisions [Trump] doesn’t like [is] an extraordinary and disturbing thing.”

Having talked incessantly about Carrier during his campaign, Trump had little choice but to back up his words with action. By taking successful action, he scored a significant political coup. And if he hadn’t acted and jobs were lost, it would have been a source of embarrassment and disillusionment.

The big question is whether this sort of intervention will become standard practice in the Trump administration. It might. Negotiating such deals is something Trump does well, and he no doubt relishes the acclaim it brings him.

On the other hand, the presidency carries lots of time consuming responsibilities, including ones of great national significance. So, while Carrier is unlikely to be a one-off, it may not signal a wave of intrusion.

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