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: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540083

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798481529
Mobile41283809
Madison35157506
Tuscaloosa25925455
Shelby25302249
Montgomery24723593
Baldwin21411310
Lee15993172
Calhoun14574319
Morgan14425280
Etowah13925353
Marshall12280225
Houston10648282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10070151
St. Clair9948245
Cullman9768194
Lauderdale9460243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8341176
Walker7261278
Autauga7005108
Jackson6840112
Blount6773139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5581118
Dale4877113
Russell445738
Chilton4373113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394877
Chambers3596123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303098
Winston275873
Bibb264764
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219169
Fayette212862
Henry189943
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178141
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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