Trump and the Art of the Strongman
Trump has now taken a number of firms to task, over Twitter, about moving jobs to Mexico. While there’s some disagreement, it seems that some critics have backed down.
“I know from talking to business people that no major firm wants to be a subject of a Trump tweet,” says Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He says companies realize Trump controls the Justice Department, the Defense Department, the IRS, the Treasury and regulatory agencies, and “the amount of control that intersects with what companies are doing is enormous.”
This is, first, an implicit rebuke to all the Presidents who did nothing, and to all the fools who said they could only do nothing.
But, it is also about the art of getting powerful people to bend to your will.
The classic method is to pick out someone, someone powerful, and break them. Humiliate them, destroy them, and do it publicly. Make them grovel.
You make an example of someone. In almost every case, and certainly in Trump’s case, were the powerful to band together, they could easily take you down. You must make sure they don’t do that.
So you make an example of someone, and then you treat others kindly.
“You can have tax cuts and beautiful labor law cuts and a privatizing stimulus, but in exchange I need you to keep jobs in America and bring some back.”
That’s the deal.
The problem is that many CEOs and billionaires will want to take all the goodies, and still move jobs overseas. Normally, in fact, that’s what has happened: Tax cuts were given, and the savings were used to accelerate offshoring and outsourcing and to do massive stock buy-backs to enrich executives.
So Trump is putting companies on notice that this won’t be tolerated, and I believe to really drive the lesson home, he will need to break someone.
Be very clear, this is easy to do. The President is fantastically powerful. Unleash the FBI, NSA, DOJ, and IRS on any major firm, and you will find offenses. Moreover, in almost every case, they will include criminal offenses–if you allow them to be.
Then, you charge executives with crimes rather than immunizing them with fines, and you tie them up in court for years. If they lose, you throw them into a maximum security prisons, and you let bad things happen to them.
Even before this sequence is through, people will get the message.
Presidents have chosen NOT to do this, even in cases of rampant corruption and criminality (Obama being the worst offender by far, with his wholesale immunization of fraud and racketeering in the financial industry).
But you don’t have to play the game that way, and I’m guessing Trump won’t. And that’s why executives are bowing, because they’re scared he will break someone to demonstrate his power, and they don’t want to be the executives he hauls out of the crowd, to whom he has his goons deliver a beat-down.
This is nasty pool, but I wouldn’t weep for whoever becomes the example. They’ll almost certainly have it coming. The injustice won’t be in what happens to them, but in the fact that all the others will be let-off so long as they kow-tow.
We’ll talk more about this principle, with regards to the Federal Reserve and the intelligence community, for now, watch for it.
(Trump gets his second term if he delivers enough for his base. This is existential for his administration.)
The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.