President-elect Donald Trump threatened U.S. companies with “consequences” if they try to move all or parts of their businesses to other countries while proposing to slash tax rates for those that stay home.
Trump on Thursday described what amounts to a carrot-and-stick strategy, saying his administration will treat American firms well, later adding that there will be a reckoning if firms cross him.
“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences,” Trump said, in a cadence reminiscent of his populist campaigning style. “It’s not going to happen, I’ll tell you right now. We’re losing so much.”
The lone penalty he mentioned was heavy taxes for companies “at the border” when they attempt to move items produced abroad back to the United States.
“We can’t allow this anymore with our country,” Trump said at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, where 1,000 jobs will remain — rather than be moved to Mexico — under a deal he brokered with company brass.
At the White House, aides to President Barack Obama welcomed news that the Carrier jobs would remain. But Obama’s top spokesman for a second consecutive day said Trump has a long way to go if he hopes to match his predecessor’s record.
“Mr. Trump would have to make 804 more announcements just like that to equal the standard of jobs in the manufacturing sector that were created in this country under President Obama’s watch,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
“So, you know, this is good news,” he said, “but the incoming president has a high bar to meet when it comes to putting in place the kind of economic policies that are gonna benefit American workers.”
Beyond the tough talk, Trump also broached proposals likely to be applauded and embraced by big business.
One was his vow to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to around 15 percent, which he said would be among the lowest rates in the world. The existing corporate tax level is a back-breaker for many companies, he said.
Another was his promise to roll back federal regulations, saying industry executives told him during the presidential campaign that those restrictions are a bigger hindrance on their businesses than the amounts their firms are paying to Washington.
Trump acknowledged some regulations are necessary to cover safety and environmental concerns. But most, he added, are “nonsense.” He used the Indianapolis factory as an example, saying that of the 260 new federal regulations issued in recent years, 53 affect that facility.
He promised to crack down on the “major industry” that he says writing regulations has become, which could be a blow to the Washington, D.C., area economy, where many firms involved in such work are located.
Outgoing Indiana GOP Sen. Dan Coats, rumored as a possible Trump pick for director of national intelligence, called the Carrier deal “great news for Hoosiers and great news for all those who found out that, even before he became president, Trump is able to begin to fulfill a commitment to keep American jobs, keep jobs over here.”
Not every Republican member welcomed the Carrier deal or Trump’s vows to create new manufacturing jobs. Earlier Thursday, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, a longtime Trump critic, took to Twitter to note that automation will drive additional changes in the American workforce.
“We should be honest that there will be more, not less, job change in the future,” Sasse wrote. “We should be encouraging prep for disruption & retraining.”
We should be honest that there will be more, not less, job change in the future.
We should be encouraging prep for disruption & retraining. https://t.co/36kOczakAn
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) December 1, 2016
On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan sidestepped a question about whether it is proper for the federal government to push a private firm to reverse a business decision.
“Well, I’m pretty happy that we’re keeping jobs in America. Aren’t you? I don’t know the details of the Carrier arrangement, but I do know that Mike Pence is still the sitting governor of Indiana,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters. “And I have no doubt that he probably had a hand in helping this. And this is what governors do.”
In Indiana, Trump called the flow of U.S. jobs to Mexico a “one-way street” and vowed to change that.
He also reiterated his campaign pledge to build a massive wall along America’s southern border, but softened his tone a bit, saying it will feature “doors” for those immigrants who wish to enter the country legally.