Robert Reich: Bullying Boeing Shows Trump’s a Despot

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The presidential limousine in front of the old Air Force One at the Eleftherios Venizelos International airport in Athens, Greece, November 15. After President-elect Donald Trump attacked aerospace giant Boeing for cost estimates regarding the new Air Force One, Robert Reich writes, don’t be fooled into thinking Trump is being guided by anything other than his own random, autocratic whims: He could have attacked or lauded any one of thousands of big companies that are creating American jobs, or creating jobs abroad, or charging the government too much for their products. Michalis Karagiannis/reuters

This article first appeared on RobertReich.org.

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump made a deal with Carrier (and its parent, United Technologies) to keep 800 jobs in Indiana rather than sending them to Mexico. Indiana agreed to give Carrier $7 million in tax breaks, and Trump assured United Technologies that its $6 billion a year in military contracts would be secure.

Then, Trump attacked aerospace giant Boeing Tuesday morning, tweeting: “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Later, he added; “We want Boeing to make a lot of money but not that much money.”

Boeing shares immediately took a hit (but recovered by early afternoon as the company began to explain itself).

Related: Robert Reich: 14 Ways to Resist Trump

After which, Trump turned Mr. Nice Guy. “Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs,” he tweeted shortly after Masayoshi Son, CEO of the company, arrived at Trump Tower in New York. “Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!,” Trump added.

I wonder what Trump promised Masa.

The art of the Trump deal is to use sticks (public criticism) and carrots (public commendation plus government sweeteners) to get big corporations to do what Trump wants them to do.

This isn’t public policy making. It’s not about changing market incentives. It has nothing to do with lawmaking. It’s a drop in the bucket in terms of jobs.

In reality, it’s the arbitrary and capricious use of personal power—hitting stock prices and turning public opinion against companies Trump doesn’t like, and raising stock prices and public opinion toward companies Trump does like.

Don’t be fooled into thinking Trump is being guided by anything other than his own random, autocratic whims. He could have attacked or lauded any one of thousands of big companies that are creating American jobs, or creating jobs abroad, or charging the government too much for their products.

This is the work of a despot who wants corporate America (and everyone else) to kiss his derriere.

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