President Donald Trump blasted General Motors and its CEO, Mary Barra, in an interview, impromptu press Q&A and tweets for announcing plan t closings, layoffs and the junking of out-of-favor lines such as the Chevy Impala and Buick LaCrosse.
He also threatened to “[cut] all @GM subsidies, including for electric cars” in a tweetbite that may appeal to some of the “American Workers” he is purporting to protect -- but that most observers point out is hollow, at best.
“Be smart: As Axios' Dan Primack notes, there are no GM-specific electric vehicle subsidies. Instead, there are industrywide federal tax credits of up to $7,500 on EVs purchased in the United States, with aggregate caps of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer,” Zachary Basu posts on Axios. “GM is currently bumping up against its cap, while Tesla has already hit it. Trump also could not end the credits without the help of Congress, which soon will have a Democrat-controlled House.”
“Market forces are tough to beat, even if you’re president,” observes Bloomberg’s Matthew Townsend. “Trump captured the White House thanks in large part to the story he told -- that he could reverse America’s industrial decline. He promised to bring back manufacturing and fossil-fuel jobs written off as casualties of global trade and over-regulation. But almost halfway through Trump’s first term, divergences from his ‘Make America Great Again’ story line continue to pile up, pushed along by technology, globalization and a changing climate.”
The Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal sounds a similar note.
“President Trump believes he can command markets like King Canute thought he could the tides. But General Motors has again exposed the inability of any politician to arrest the changes in technology and consumer tastes roiling the auto industry,” it maintains in an editorial posted last night.
“Mr. Trump thinks his trade machinations can overrule the realities of the marketplace, but he’s as wrong as Barack Obama was about the climate and regulation. Fine with us if he wants to end subsidies for all car companies. But if he intervenes to make GM less competitive, Mr. Trump will merely hurt more workers,” it concludes (after also working in a swipe at “liberals howling about layoffs.”)
In a phone interview Monday with the WSJ’s Bob Davis, Trump took particular issue with GM’s decision to possibly close a plant in Lordstown, Ohio that has produced the Chevy Cruze, whose sales are flagging. In a conversation with CEO Barra Sunday evening, Trump said he told her: “I heard you’re closing your plant. It’s not going to be closed for long, I hope, Mary, because if it is you’ve got a problem.”
And so would he.
Ohio’s Mahoning Valley area “is ground zero for what I refer to as the ‘Trump Democrat,’" Capri S. Cafaro, who hails from there, writes for Fox News. And if Trump doesn’t “save” the plant, the headline reads, “he might be the next to lose his job” [in the 2020 election].
Speaking to reporters on his way to campaign in Mississippi for Cindy Hyde-Smith, who won her Senate race yesterday, Trump said he was “very tough” with Barra in his Sunday chat.
“‘I spoke with her when I heard they were closing and I said, you know, this country has done a lot for General Motors,’ Trump said, referring to the federal bailout of the company after the 2008 financial crash. He later repeated: ‘You know, the United States saved General Motors, and for her to take that company out of Ohio is not good,’” reports Kevin Liptak for CNN.
“As the president’s pique became increasingly evident, the automaker put out a statement on its ‘commitment to U.S. manufacturing’ that said in part: ‘We appreciate the actions this administration has taken on behalf of industry to improve the overall competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing,’” Neal E. Boudette reports for the New York Times.
For all the bluster, the more Trump talks, the more critics say he has no idea what he’s talking about.
“A Wall Street Journal interview on trade shows Trump has no idea what he’s doing,” reads the headline on Matthew Yglesias’ analysis for Vox. “He confuses tariffs and interest rates, and invents phantom new steel plants,” the subhed adds.
“We’ve gone from the president boldly reviving American industry by taxing foreign metal to the president kind of vaguely begging the CEO of a car company to keep a marginal factory open,” Yglesias writes.
“In short, [GM’s] move was a logical decision that you might expect someone like Donald Trump, a self-described businessman who claims to know ‘more about’ money, taxes, trading, banking, and the economy than anyone, to understand. But, of course, Trump is only a businessman in so much as he played one on TV -- his real-life accomplishments are more along the lines of bankrupting a casino and receiving a lifetime allowance from his father, who had to bail him out on numerous occasions,” Beth Levin posits for Vanity Fair’s “Hive.”