Thursday, August 16, 2018
Opinion

Trump again threatens 35% tax on companies (well, except Carrier)

President-elect Donald Trump went on a bit of a tweetstorm Sunday morning, making clear any companies that move operations abroad during his administration would be making a "very expensive mistake." Why? They would then have to pay higher import tariffs of 35 percent to get their goods back in the United States.

The message was hardly a surprise as it had long been part of Trump's campaign platform. But in a series of six Twitter posts Sunday morning, Trump made clear he intends to move forward with the plan even as he picks free-market-loving Wall Street insiders for key posts in his administration who almost surely think this is a terrible idea.

Trump began his message with the carrot, saying the United States will "substantially reduce taxes and regulations on businesses." It didn't take long to get to the stick: "but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG!"

Days after Trump traveled to Indiana to tout a deal that pushed Carrier to keep around 1,000 jobs in the United States, the president-elect warned "there will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35% for these companies" that go abroad and expect to sell their products back into the U.S.

During his speech at the Carrier plant on Thursday, Trump warned "companies are not going to leave the United States any more without consequences. Not going to happen." At the time, he didn't detail what those consequences would be, but his tweets on Sunday made clear he is sticking with the plans he outlined in the campaign. The president-elect said that he was sending out the tweets so that companies could "be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake."

As the New York Times points out, it wasn't threat of a higher tariff that pushed Carrier to keep jobs in the United states, but rather the $7 million in fiscal incentives that Indiana vowed to provide. That led to criticism both from the right and the left that said the deal amounted to the government getting involved in the free market and corporate welfare, respectively.

Trump's threats came shortly after he turned his focus to another Indiana company planning to move jobs to Mexico. "Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all of its 300 workers," Trump wrote on Twitter.

That message drew a rebuke from Bernie Sanders: "What are you going to do, @realDonaldTrump? Stand up for working people or give the company a massive tax break?"

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence seemed to imply Trump will continue to be involved in pushing companies to stay in the United States. Trump will decide whether to get involved with trying to get other companies to keep jobs in the United States "on a day-by-day basis," Pence said. "He's going to put on the table all the tools that are going to take away the advantages of companies that for far too long have been pulling up stakes, leaving American workers behind," he added.

Slate

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