Businesses wary of a President Trump
Donald Trump’s experience in the boardroom is doing little to help the Republican presidential front-runner sway the business vote.
The corporate tycoon has soared to the top of many early polls, promising to be the “greatest jobs president that God has ever created,” but business leaders aren’t buying his stock just yet.
Many are skeptical of Trump’s immigration, investment and trade policies, arguing they would harm the economy. Others are waiting to hear more from Trump before making up their minds.
“Of the business people I know, I personally have not run across any that are supporting Trump,” one executive at a business-minded think tank in Washington told The Hill.
The Trump campaign did not answer requests for comment.
To be sure, there are signs that some business owners prefer Trump over his rivals.
A survey of 815 small-business owners last month found that an overwhelming 38 percent favor Trump, trailed by Hillary Clinton, at 13 percent, and Jeb Bush, at 6 percent.
“The fact that he is not a career politician, that he’s a businessman, as opposed to everyone else who is a politician, they believe he’s going to solve the economy,” said John Swanciger, CEO of Manta, the online small-business organization that conducted the poll.
“Trump’s sort of no-nonsense approach really resonates with the business community,” Swanciger added.
Still, a number of prominent business leaders and conservatives remain wary of Trump, who has made his own business record a central pillar of his campaign.
The real estate mogul’s hard-line stance on immigration stands in stark contrast to that of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many Fortune 500 companies, which favor an overhaul of the current system that includes a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.
Trump offended many immigrants when he launched his campaign by suggesting that Mexico is sending rapists and other criminals across the U.S. border.
Such comments convey the impression that the U.S. isn’t open to immigrants, business leaders say.
“It sets our agenda back,” said Randel Johnson, senior vice president for immigration at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which does not endorse particular candidates.
“We need a solution [for immigration reform], and I hope other candidates … will step in and talk about the reason Trump’s policies don’t make sense,” Johnson added.
Javier Palomarez, the head of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, noted that Trump was more of a “gentlemen” than he expected after a recent meeting with him, but the two sides are still miles apart on immigration.
“We don’t agree with Donald Trump on his views over immigration,” Palomarez said. “His position that we should mass deport immigrants is untenable, un-American and not feasible.”
The agriculture, construction, hospitality, and technology industries all rely on immigrant labor, Palomarez explained. “There would be industries that would be decimated if this was allowed to happen.”
But the root of the problem with Trump’s philosophy goes beyond immigration, businesses say.
David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, is concerned some of Trump’s policies will hurt trade and scare away companies from investing in the U.S.
“The problem with Trump is his view that the government should run the economy,” said McIntosh, who has publicly feuded with Trump this summer. “It’s a disaster for the free market system.”
Trump’s feud with Club for Growth escalated this week when the candidate produced a letter from McIntosh requesting a $1 million donation “to promote pro-growth, limited government policy.” Shortly after Trump declined, McIntosh’s rhetoric took a sharp turn.
In an interview with The Hill, McIntosh cited Trump’s June speech announcing his run for the White House. In the remarks, Trump attacked Ford Motor Company for building a new assembly plant in Mexico.
He vowed to impose a 35 percent tax on all vehicles coming from that Mexican plant — though Congress is unlikely to approve such a tax hike and it would go against the spirit of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Let me give you the bad news: Every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax,” Trump warned.
Back in 2011, Trump also floated a 25 percent tariff on all goods coming from China in retaliation for what he believed to be currency manipulation.
But Trump would risk sparking trade wars with China and Mexico if he follows through with such threats, making it more difficult for U.S. companies to sell their products overseas, McIntosh said.
In 2010, Trump told Fox News he would “love to have a trade war with China.”
Earlier this year, Trump — in line with some Democrats and a number of top labor leaders — criticized negotiations over a major trade agreement between North America and Asia known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. U.S. officials say the deal would make it less expensive for American companies to do business abroad, but Trump says it would cut jobs.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an attack on America’s business,” Trump tweeted. “It does not stop Japan’s currency manipulation. This is a bad deal.”
Trump more recently declared to Bloomberg News: “I love free trade, but it’s got to be … fair trade.”
Trump isn’t making many friends on Wall Street, either. In an interview with CBS News last month, he said hedge fund managers are “getting away with murder” and not paying their fair share in taxes.
Trump has said he wants to close a tax loophole for hedge fund managers and charge them 39.6 percent. Many hedge fund managers are currently paying
a lower capital gains rate of about 23.8 percent.
“Hedge fund managers want to stay in a country where they know what the tax rate will be,” McIntosh said. “When you increase taxes on investment managers, the U.S. will lose out on attracting capital from around the world.”
Trump’s positions on issues including trade, investment and immigration do not create a conducive environment for business, critics say.
“Being a businessman doesn’t in itself guarantee that Trump would make a good president,” an executive at another Washington-based business organization told The Hill.
“Mike Bloomberg is a billionaire businessman. George Soros is a billionaire businessman. Warren Buffet is a billionaire businessman. We disagree with many of their policies.”