Trump, the businessman president, loses CEO support

Trump, the businessman president, loses CEO support
U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions about his response to the events in Charlottesville as he talks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The honeymoon is definitely over.

When US President Donald Trump was elected last November, big business rejoiced.

In June, optimism among American CEOs was at a three-year high on hopes that Trump would succeed in implementing his pro-growth agenda, including tax cuts.

But Trump has now lost support from several executives who left an advisory panel on manufacturing over his response to a violent white supremacist rally in Virginia — a sign that big business is disenchanted with the billionaire leader.

The head of the powerful AFL-CIO union, Richard Trumka, added his name to the list of defectors that also includes the heads of Merck Pharmaceutical, Under Armour and Intel, as well as the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

“We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” Trumka said in a statement.

“We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.”

Trump, never one to shy away from controversy, fired back.

“For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place,” he tweeted.

“Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”

But there was a definite feeling that other shoes were ready to drop.

“CEOs quit Trump’s Panel: Who’s Next?” asked a headline on Bloomberg News television.

Economist Joel Naroff said he suspected more would like to protest, but are “caught in a bind.”

“On one side, their job is to maximize the return to the shareholder. On the other side, they can’t be blind to the social implications of their companies’ actions,” Naroff said.

To leave or not to leave?

In the early days of Trump’s presidency, which began in January, most of the signs from big business were positive.

The Manhattan real estate tycoon-turned-world leader ran as a friend of the business community who pledged to enact tax cuts, streamline regulations and take other steps to boost growth in the world’s biggest economy.

But discontent first surfaced in January, when Apple chief Tim Cook and other criticized Trump’s controversial travel ban.

Then in June, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger removed themselves from White House advisory panels over Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

Nevertheless, the Business Roundtable’s CEO Economic Outlook Index published in June, which measures corporate spending and hiring plans over the next six months, rose to 93.9 for the second quarter, the highest since the same period of 2014.

“I know the vast majority of (CEOs) believe that really positive tax reform remains more than possible,” Business Roundtable president Joshua Bolten told reporters.

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