Business and a second Trump term

If Donald Trump won a second term, he would promise to govern as no modern president ever has, imposing steep tariffs, rounding up immigrants, releasing the January 6 rioters and possibly withdrawing from NATO. Trump has signaled that he will accomplish this by nominating loyalists, rather than the more moderate military leaders and business executives of his first term.

Nonetheless, many CEOs don’t care, as my colleague Jonathan Mahler described them in a recent article. They do not believe that Trump will keep what he has promised, unlike many scholars who have studied politicians like Trump and believe that he will keep his promises.

To make sense of the situation, I asked Jonathan and three Times reporters who covered Trump’s second-term plans for help: Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Jonathan Swan. Our exchange follows.

David Leonhardt: Do CEOs simply assume that Trump will fail to implement his agenda, or do they silently support it?

Jonathan Mahler: Most CEOs are not enthusiastic about a second Trump term. They had a rough ride the first time around – even though they got the tax cuts and deregulation they wanted – and they’re pretty sure it will bring instability, which is generally bad for business.

That said, many are also against President Biden, who has been much more aggressive in regulating the business. And I don’t get the impression that they have absorbed the messages that Trump and his allies have been sending about what a second term would be like.

It may be hard for CEOs to imagine that next time they might have much less influence. But to me this attitude seems to ignore both history and political currents around the world, including the American conservative movement.

Charlie Savage: The premise here is that CEOs would be more motivated by broader issues of American democracy as a matter of enlightened self-interest than by their own direct self-interest. I’m not sure this premise is valid.

It is common to hear the term “populist” used as shorthand for Trumpism. But that’s not the right label if the question is which candidate’s policies will be most likely to allow corporations and the wealthy to accumulate more money in the short term. Biden would let Trump’s 2017 income tax cuts for wealthy people expire, while Trump promises a new corporate tax cut. And Trump denigrates regulatory agencies – the means by which society imposes rules on powerful business interests, which can affect their profits – as part of the “deep state” he has promised to dismantle.

Many radical aspects of Trump’s agenda are not incompatible with the rich getting richer.

(Related: In a speech yesterday, Biden sharply criticized Trump as a protector of the rich. “Look at the economy from Mar-a-Lago, where he and his rich friends embrace the failed trickle-down policies that have failed working families for more than 40 years,” Biden said.)

Maggie Habermann: I think some CEOs are telling themselves that there were similar warnings about Trump in 2016 and that they believe he’s so transactional that they can work with him. The problem with this interpretation is that Trump’s interest in CEOs is entirely needs-based. Yes, he likes the approval of the rich. But if he wins, he will not be able to legally run for president again, which would not be binding on him.

I think the basic point that these executives are unhappy with Biden’s economic policy is crucial. I have heard endless complaints about climate initiatives, student debt relief, and the federal deficit (despite the lack of complaints from the same officials when Trump increased the deficit).

Most importantly, these executives tend to roll their eyes at the coverage of Trump’s radical plans and tell themselves that they can find ways to deal with them.

Jonathan Cigno: Trump will have far fewer incentives in 2025 than in 2017 to appeal to corporate America. The donor class largely abandoned him after January 6, although some are slowly returning now. American banks refuse to do business with the Trump Organization.

And under Trump, the Republican base has changed dramatically. They are more blue-collar, more likely to dislike corporate bosses and Davos “thought leaders.” The relationship between corporate America and congressional Republicans has also cooled. I heard something like this from several Trump-aligned Republicans about corporate America: “We’ve protected you for years. And then you turned around and sided with Democrats on every major cultural issue: the environment, immigration, diversity, inclusion and voting rights.”

Most Republicans are still comfortable with corporate interests, but some of the new Trump-aligned members of Congress, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, are less dependent on corporate money because they raise tons of money online from grassroots donors.

David Leonhardt: I remained convinced that many CEOs sincerely support much of Trump’s agenda, but also oppose other parts. Executives seem to be betting that they can get the parts they like without the parts they don’t.

Maggie Habermann: No matter how sincerely they support or do not support specific pieces, many are animated by greater antipathy toward Biden than attraction to Trump. And they look away from the parts they don’t like.

NBA: The Sacramento Kings defeated the Golden State Warriors, 118-94, in a Play-In game. The Warriors are eliminated from playoff contention.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Kings will face the Pelicans for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference after the Lakers won in New Orleans to advance to the full playoffs.

WNBA: Monday’s draft it averaged 2.4 million viewers; the previous record was 601,000, in 2004.

Cage Match Policy: UFC CEO Dana White has reached the pinnacle of Trump-era political influence.

Doctors in the United States have begun to explore an idea that was first popularized in Britain: “social prescribing.” This means trying to address issues such as isolation and stress by suggesting patients explore non-clinical activities; think glassblowing, nature walks, or ballroom dancing.

Some experts, however, are skeptical about how far the approach will go in a nation without socialized medicine: “I think all the biases built into the system favor more acute medical care and intensive care,” one professor told the Times of health policy.