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Trump's Fractured Ties to Businesses Could Hurt Policy-Making | USA Today

Dr. Gary Mangiofico Quoted in USA Today

August 22, 2017  | 2 min read

News Analysis

The titans of Corporate America have said enough is enough, cementing a break with President Trump.
 
Through his election campaign, Trump extolled his business acumen as qualifying him to create more higher-paying jobs for Americans and power the U.S. economy to greater growth. And in his early days in office, he welcomed a parade of CEOs into the White House as evidence that he would work hand-in-hand with industry to benefit working people.
 
But it is Trump’s other campaign tactic, and continued approach, of appealing to fringe racist groups that has put corporations in a position to be less intimidated by a president prone to attacking corporations on Twitter and awakened them to the realization that significant policy changes in their favor may be delayed or not happen at all.
 
“The business community, like the Republican Senate, is losing faith in the president’s ability to do anything,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank that describes itself as nonpartisan, and the author of Why Presidents Fail. “It’s hard to avoid the opinion that he’s pretty incompetent. He just can’t get much done.”
 
After the president again equally blamed counterprotesters at the white nationalists rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend that left three dead and dozens hurt, dozens of CEOs of companies from Pepsico to Intel to IBM jumped ship, rebuking Trump for initially not directly naming and blaming the hate groups behind the neo-Nazi rally.
 
In response, Trump tweeted Wednesday: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”
 
The CEOs’ collective rejection of Trump has given them strength in numbers and perhaps courage to absorb any coming tweet attacks from the president.
 
The corporate chiefs, once members of Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum and Manufacturing Jobs Council, “have nothing to lose. They are in the drivers’ seat now and should never have been cowed,” says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor at the Yale School of Management.
 
Some Republican lawmakers’ open disregard for Trump also could wither away the president’s political capital and damage prospects for resolving policy issues. The president still needs to see his new budget get passed and has to negotiate with Congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling — the amount of money the country can borrow to help pay its bills.
 
CEOs will be reluctant to deal with the administration as openly if the White House seems to be fogged in a cloud of incompetence and when they can be subject to public flogging on social media for anything less than total obsequiousness. Going forward, they are more likely to contact other lawmakers to get their points across.
 
“Lobbying will be less directed at Trump and more at other politicians and legislators that can support business-friendly policies,” says Gary Mangiofico, professor of management at Pepperdine University. Says Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments: “Charlottesville was the last straw for some Republicans.”