There’s No Business Like Trump Business

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

It appears that President Donald Trump’s faux “bro-mance” with the country’s corporate business leadership has pretty much come to an end.  The President craves respect, especially from the business elite. But, to paraphrase comedian Rodney Dangerfield, Trump doesn’t get much respect these days.

After decades of being excluded from the elite “club” in New York, Trump finds that major business executives don’t want to be part of his “club” either. A particular blow to the Trump ego must have been entrepreneur Carl Icahn’s withdrawal as a Presidential advisor. Trump has often bragged about his relationship with Icahn.

The Charlottesville clash was the catalyst for the break-up, but relationships  between President Trump and the corporate elite were never smooth. While big business may like the thought of tax cuts and lax regulations, Trump’s stands on immigration and trade are an anathema.  And corporate leaders understand that climate change is real and needs to be addressed.  Pulling out of the Paris accords only added a big dose of economic uncertainty, which business hates.

Donald Trump as a successful business executive was always a myth.  He has never run a public company and has never been accountable to shareholders, employees, or consumers. Surviving a string of bankruptcies, stiffed investors, creditors, and employees, and dissatisfied customers, the Trump financial empire has been built—and kept afloat–by The Donald’s skills as a hustler and self-promoter.  While lots of corporate CEO types were willing to pay homage to President Trump and enjoy personal access and face time with POTUS, they have never really embraced a character they consider to be boorish and unreliable.

Not surprisingly, California has been a focal point for corporate blow back against the President.  Even before members of Presidential business councils bailed in the wake of Trump’s Charlottesville rhetoric, California-based CEOs, like Tim Cook of Apple and Robert Iger from Disney pulled the plug, as did Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame.  Silicon Valley has long been having fits over immigration and a host of other issues.

Clearly, there’s no love lost between Trump and California.  Since becoming President, he has managed to visit West Virginia twice, but has yet to set foot in the Golden State.   His trade policies threaten much of California’s economy—particularly the massive logistics industry built around our busy ports, as well as the Central Valley’s agriculture industry.  In a state that has turned diversity into an economic strength, the Trump anti-immigration stance is a non-starter.  The Administration’s attempts to derail the Affordable Care Act are no favor to major businesses that could face higher health insurance costs once again, if cutbacks in Medicaid push costs back onto private employers. And Trump Administration proposals to disallow the deduction of state and local taxes on federal returns would be a body blow to many California taxpayers.

The politics of anger doesn’t work for the business community.  Trump and his policies may resonate with the guy who runs a diner in Topeka, but for the high-tech entrepreneur in San Jose or the studio head in Hollywood, not so much.

It’s impossible to predict the future of Donald Trump’s presidency, but don’t expect California–or the nation’s major business leaders—to go happily along for the ride.

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