by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump has never been one for free enterprise. His way of being pro-business involves subsidies, handouts, and taxes (he calls them tariffs) — that is, Big Government. And his latest threat to General Motors shows why: Big Government industrial policy gives Trump more power. …
… And GM has benefited from plenty of subsidies over the years. The taxpayers bailed them out a decade ago with bridge loans. Beyond the bailout former President Barack Obama padded GM’s pockets with green subsidies, including, as Trump points out, for their electric cars. …
… Now that he’s president, federal subsidies and bailouts and handouts expand the list of people and entities Trump can consider to be “working for” him.
It’s not just GM. Boeing depends on defense contracts, and has in the past enjoyed many billions in export subsidies. Drugmakers depend not only temporary government-enforced monopolies, but also on billions in Obamacare and Medicare subsidies and protection from foreign competitors.
Trump has used the fact of these subsidies to threaten and jostle and cajole these businesses to do what he wants them to do — after all, since Uncle Sam is paying them, they could be said to “work for” Trump. Maybe you like what Trump is pushing them to do. Maybe you preferred what Obama was pushing them to do. In the long run, though, it’s not healthy to give politicians such ad hoc power over private enterprise.