The optics were politically irresistible: The winning presidential ticket rallying with cheering workers in the Vice President-elect's home state at a manufacturing plant where about 1,000 American jobs had just been saved, thanks to a deal they'd personally negotiated. If the goal was to send a political message to voters via a splashy, feel-good, pre-inauguration achievement, mission accomplished. Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway triumphantly tweeted out the results of a fresh Morning Consult/Politico survey national showing that the Carrier play was a hit with voters across the board:
Fully 60 percent of voters say the episode makes them view Trump more favorably, while just nine percent said the opposite. That's quite a positive spread for him. Partisan tribalism remains strong, of course. Only four-in-ten Democrats give a thumbs-up to this federal intervention into the private sector economy (ostensibly and genuinely) on behalf of blue collar workers -- the sort of thing they'd generally advocate and celebrate. Meanwhile, a commanding majority of Republicans (87 percent) are enthusiastic about a move that likely would draw a great deal of center-right criticism if it had been authored and executed by President Obama. There are numerous reasons for free market conservatives to be critical of the Carrier development, some of which I covered in my analysis last week. National Review's house editorial put it well:
We are not very enthusiastic about government-run economic-development programs that rely on industry-specific — or firm-specific — tax breaks, grants, or other concessions. In the long run (and generally in the short run, too), these programs are almost always corrupt in themselves and a source of corruption in others, with the benefits going mainly to politically influential and well-connected companies, whether that means Solyndra during the Obama administration or Carrier in the Trump administration. Inevitably, what happens is this: The government creates a set of incentives to encourage certain kinds of business activity, from “green” energy to manufacturing, and then, after a few years pass, complains mightily that companies are responding to the incentives that the government created. Consider those periodic journalistic spasms over General Electric’s low corporate-tax bill or the criticism that Starbucks encountered for taking advantage of manufacturing credits in its manufacturing operations: Those deductions and carve-outs didn’t happen by accident — they happened exactly the way the Carrier deal is happening. In the long run, cushioning the bottom lines of particular industries or companies is a poor model of economic development, and the rationale of “saving jobs” is almost never defensible once you run the numbers. It is a hard truth, but if a worker’s job is “saved” by writing his employer a $7 million check, then what you are engaged in is not economic development but income redistribution.
Setting aside the long-term sustainability of this overall model and the merits of the specific deal in question, the immediate political impact appears to be unequivocally beneficial to the incoming president. When I pointed this out on Twitter, one detractor of the deal politely chided me for trumpeting the public opinion fallout of what is at its core an "irresponsible" short-term solution that only serves up "false hope" to a sector of the economy facing lasting headwinds. Here's my reply, which echoed the key point of my earlier analysis:
My hope is that Carrier deal was (politically strong) symbolism that builds trust & allows for lasting solutions like tax & reg reforms. https://t.co/6jXuKaMT83— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 6, 2016
Again, he hasn't even been sworn in yet -- and has repeatedly expressed support for both aggressive tax reform and scaling back some of the feds' worst regulatory excesses -- so perhaps fiscal conservatives should: (a) Focus on ensuring that lasting pro-jobs, pro-business policies take center stage in the legislative arena starting in January, and (b) recognize that Trump is a showman at heart. If he can signal to large segments of voters that he really cares about them, and is intent on following through on his promise to help them, he might earn the political capital and space for Republicans to implement growth-indicing plans that are fiscally sound and sustainable. What I hope Trump is doing here is shrewdly broadcasting a message of "I'm on your side," as he has on several other occasions -- such as stating his desire to forego a presidential salary, and whatever he's up to with Boeing today. Speaking of which, we broke that issue down shortly after it arose this morning on America's Newsroom. Again, he's undoubtedly telegraphing signs to the company involved (there are several subtexts in the mix, I'd guess), but also making a statement to ordinary Americans:
UPDATE - Surprise: With the cost of doing business rising, even with tax code incentives, Carrier is raising prices on consumers. Or, put another way...
BREAKING: the laws of economics are still true. https://t.co/yBx2uiNumJ— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) December 6, 2016