Trump As CEO President Has Actually Been A Huge Success

One of bigger appeals that Donald Trump had for a certain portion of the electorate was the myth that Trump was a very successful businessman and would run the US Government like a business. The problem is that running the federal government is nothing like running a business. Trump and his supporters may love to look at the President as a CEO but, if the President is the CEO, then Congress is a 535 member corporate board who will have to OK virtually every decision the CEO makes. And the federal judiciary is a massive legal department that can shut down policies that even the CEO and the board agree upon.

But, in so many ways, Trump does not seem to grasp these issues and insists on believing that the President has the same powers as a CEO. As Vox points out, the fact that Trump has tried to run the government like a business had meant that he has largely left government unchanged. He seemed shocked that his executive orders were not similar to his orders as head of the Trump Organization -it would just simply happen. And he was even more shocked that a judge somewhere in the country could simply and easily just stop those orders in their tracks.

He takes that same CEO authoritarian approach to his dealings with Congress and in his foreign policy. And this is compounded by his policy ignorance, in much the same ways bad CEOs (and there are plenty of them) don’t sweat the details but focus on the “vision” for the company. This approach has poisoned Trump’s relationships with our allies and even with Congress. As Vox notes, when Trump was trying to get the ACA repeal through the House, he said to “forget about the little shit” and left Bannon to tell representatives “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill”. To which one member replied, “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either”. That authoritarian kind of mentality works in corporate America. It does not work with Congress..

And, just like most CEOs, especially one from a family-owned business, Trump believes in a small coterie of close advisers that will essentially make all the decisions. There is, however, a second layer of upper management who do exist, desperately trying to become part of the inner circle and show Trump that they can get things done. This is essentially the role that the cabinet fills for the CEO Trump. Often times this layer of upper management works at cross-purposes and spends a lot of time trying to politically push aside their peers. This is why we see Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley virtually contradicting each other in explaining what is supposed to be US policy toward Assad. But for the CEO, this second layer of management performs one important role. If anything goes seriously wrong, if something goes south in a big way, they are there to take the blame and be the fall guy (and it’s usually a guy).

The major corporate CEO has lost touch with and no longer understands the role that the vast majority of his employees actually do. To him, they are just another expense line on the balance sheet. But they are actually the people who get things done. Trump does not seem to believe that there is a reason to fill all the positions that are currently open in his administration. Of course, these are the people who actually implement the CEO’s decisions and actually get things accomplished. But, like many CEOs, Trump does not understand the importance of these workers, which is a large part of the reason why he is not getting things done.

While Trump’s attempt to run government like a business has been a failure in terms of accomplishment, there is one hugely important area where Trump’s CEO mentality is a raging success. It is virtually the sole criteria upon which CEOs are judged and, in this sense, Trump is right when he says that his first 100 days is “one of the most successful in American history”. That criteria is, of course, taking care of Trump’s shareholders, which in this case is Trump’s family and Trump himself. It is surely not the American people.

Every trip to Mar-a-Lago lines his pockets. Every foreign government or domestic organization that books a room or an event at his hotels adds to the shareholder dividend. Every sale of an apartment or condo in a Trump owned or branded building, whether by untraceable owners, foreign governments, or others, increases shareholder value. Every trademark that Donald and Ivanka receives in another foreign country boosts the bottom line. Every offer that Jared receives to bail out his disastrous investment in 666 5th Avenue, from the Chinese or others, is one step closer to getting rid of that loss. Every Trump visit to another Trump property is free advertising, as is official government outlets pushing his resorts and properties, as the State Department recently did with Mar-a-Lago. And every meeting that Donald or Ivanka or Jared or Eric or Don, Jr. has with a foreign dignitary or business leader is another opportunity for a soft sales pitch if not an outright quid pro quo.

By the standards of current American capitalism, the record of Trump as the CEO President has been an unqualified success. The shareholders are giddy. The profits are rolling in. The future may have some uncertainty but it certainly looks bright. The next 3–1/2 years look like it will more of the same. The fact that he has accomplished nothing is simply irrelevant. Trump has fulfilled the business school mantra of maximizing shareholder value and, based on the standards to judge American corporate leaders, he has done a great job. With results like this, it’s certainly about time to give the CEO an enormous bonus.

I’ve also written about this and other issues on my personal blog at []

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