Politics

Trump’s Chance to Create ‘America First’ Advisory Councils

Musk, Iger resignations over climate-pact withdrawal create realignment opportunity

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement prompted some big names to resign from White House advisory boards in protest. However, what seems like another “Trump bump” is actually an opportunity to infuse the president’s councils with new viewpoints that align rather than conflict with his vision for the nation.

Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger quit over their disagreements with the president’s action. But in spite of all the made-up hysteria about the Paris climate agreement, the Trump decision shouldn’t be all that controversial. The president is moving more of the job of combating the possible effects of global warming to the U.S. private sector and the laboratory of the states, where it properly belongs.

Presumably, leaders of the country’s biggest businesses are in a better position than the government to generate technologies, commercialize products, and put in place programs to address any climate-related problems — and make a tidy profit at the same time. American businesses are nimble enough to respond to market opportunities related to climate issues without federal government intervention or bullying.

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In fact, the day after the president’s announcement, a total of 1,219 governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities signed on to what is in fact an ‘America First’ climate pledge to see that the U.S. “remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.” These luminaries — in spite of labeling Trump’s action earth-endangering, believe that they can do what is necessary to meet any challenges due to climate change and its putative causes. They have said so themselves. Thus they are in line with the time-honored American principles of free markets and federalism.

The departures of Musk and Iger from the president’s advisory boards should generate a new look at their composition. The Strategy and Policy Forum is heavily stocked with finance, investment, and consulting firms. The Manufacturing Jobs Initiative is almost completely composed of the heads of multinational manufacturing firms, many of them significant outsourcers, who transport formerly American jobs to Mexico, China, and elsewhere. All these businesses generally view the global economy as their oyster, and in fact facilitate globalization without analyzing or caring about its downsides for many working Americans.

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One wonders where are the representatives of the much more numerous small and midsize manufacturing firms, machine shops, tech-based startups, and other domestic companies whose owners actually go to work in their factories every morning, know their employees by first name, and manage all manner of headaches daily in their businesses, without being obsessively focused on their companies’ share prices.

They should be advising him, not high-rolling executives who crisscross the globe in their private, carbon-spewing jets while decrying global warming.

These are the people of flyover country, whose counsel the president needs in order to fulfill his campaign promises. Together with their employees, they elected the president to represent them and halt the ravages of globalization and internationalism. They should be advising him, not the high-rolling executives who crisscross the globe in their private, carbon-spewing jets while decrying global warming.

The president often cites the alarming statistics that 70,000 manufacturing establishments have closed their doors in the past 20 years, and five million manufacturing jobs have been lost since the U.S. extended “Most Favored Nation” status to China in 2001, when it entered the World Trade Organization (and where it continues to break its membership promises). Where on the president’s councils are the owners of domestic manufacturing companies that are still in business in spite of the China effect?

Presumably, they must possess some important business acumen, having stayed afloat while so many in their industries went belly up.

A basic misconception hinders Trump’s advisory panels to date: The unstated premise is that success heading a major corporation makes a person qualified to address this country’s entire economic environment. But major corporations and their CEOs are just one element of the country’s economic ecosystem.

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The president should be listening to smaller manufacturers, who anchor America’s forgotten towns and cities, and community bankers, who are likely to be more insightful than Wall Street titans when it comes to creating jobs in their states. Many technology spinoffs surround research universities throughout the heartland, anxious to bring new products to market and keep the U.S. lead in innovation intact. The president needs to hear from them as well.

The president must seize on the Musk and Iger departures to reorient his advisory panels by naming domestic manufacturers, community bankers, technologists, and strategists concerned with building up the American economy. They will not be pursuing their own personal agendas; they will not be resigning in a huff; and, they will be loyal because they share his Buy-Hire-Make-It-in-America vision.

Kevin L. Kearns is president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, representing domestic manufacturers since 1933.

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