The myth of Donald Trump, CEO president

Donald Trump ran as America's first CEO president, one whose business skills made him uniquely qualified to ...

Posted: Nov 6, 2018 11:25 PM
Updated: Nov 6, 2018 11:25 PM

Donald Trump ran as America's first CEO president, one whose business skills made him uniquely qualified to run the world's largest economy.

Yet two years since Trump's election, it's clear the billionaire businessman has governed as the opposite of a modern CEO.

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Protectionism

Trump's CEO councils abandoned him in a rebuke to his incendiary comments on the violence in Charlottesville. He recruited executives to the administration, but they didn't fit in. ExxonMobil (XOM) boss Rex Tillerson was fired — by tweet. Goldman Sachs (GS) president Gary Cohn quit in the wake of Trump's imposition of protectionist trade policy.

Corporate America loves Trump's business tax cuts and deregulation, both of which have helped accelerate economic growth and send the bull market into overdrive.

But business can't stand Trump's populist instincts that have led to tariffs, a trade war with China and efforts to thwart immigration — despite a severe shortage of workers.

"Tariffs, trade wars and anti-immigration policies are anathema to business. They hate that," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management.

Attacking business

Executives running America's biggest companies know that Trump could attack or demonize them at any time. The commander-in-chief has broken with precedent by attacking individual CEOs as well as some of America's largest employers.

Trump has gone after everyone from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to Merck (MRK) boss Ken Frazier, one of the nation's most prominent black corporate leaders. He attacked Harley-Davidson and the NFL. That's not to mention the almost-constant condemnations of the press, including CNN, the New York Times, NBC and the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

Trump is once again raising the prospect of cracking down on Silicon Valley. He has accused Google, Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) of trying to silence conservatives -- a claim all three companies deny. And Trump told Axios that his administration is looking into potential antitrust violations by Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Corporate America has quite the rocky relationship with what was supposed to be one of the most business-friendly administrations ever. Even though few major CEOs supported Trump in the general election, nor the primary, they mostly rallied around him after his victory.

CEOs like stability, not conflict

Trump promised a pro-business agenda and unity.

"I've spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world," Trump said in his victory speech two years ago. "That is now what I want to do for our country."

But Sonnenfeld said executives have become "discouraged" by Trump.

"He stands for conflict — they don't like conflict. They like stability and social harmony," said Sonnenfeld, who is also founder and president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, a nonprofit focused on corporate governance that surveys CEOs.

Trump's leadership style is unlike that of almost any corporate executive, Sonnenfeld said. "It's like Vince McMahon became president of the United States."

Trade wars and inflation

Corporate America has gotten some things it wanted out of this administration.

Trump's tax cuts sparked a stock market boom in late 2016 and 2017 as well as record profits and stock buybacks this year.

He installed regulators and judges with a pro-business tilt. Corporate penalties have plunged, and regulators are moving to soften post-crisis rules imposed on banks.

But while Trump campaigned on his CEO cred, he also wrapped himself in populism and has governed in many ways antithetical to business.

The Trump bump in the stock market has started to fade as the buzz of the tax cuts' stimulus has lessened. After spiking in 2017, the market has become more turbulent. Investors fear that those same tax cuts may force the Federal Reserve to aggressively raise interest rates to prevent inflation from getting too hot.

"The economy really needs to slow to avoid a dangerous overheating," Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, wrote to clients this week.

That's why Goldman Sachs is calling for five more rate hikes from the Fed, or roughly two more than Wall Street is anticipating.

Likewise, corporate earnings calls are littered with complaints about tariffs and spikes for raw material costs. Trade war fears have contributed to market turbulence.

"The Trump administration's agenda in the first year was very pro-growth, and stocks reacted accordingly," Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, wrote to clients. "The second year has seen an emphasis on policies that can run counter to economic growth — primarily protectionism — and stocks have posted very different returns thus far this year."

Now CEOs are wondering whether year three will bring back a return of pro-business Trump or if populist Trump will win out.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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