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One of the many reasons Trump voters gave during the election for their support of The Donald was they wanted a businessman leading the country. Why they would pick a person who has filed bankruptcy with four businesses as someone with great business acumen is puzzling, but they got their guy in. We are now seeing the results of selecting as president a CEO born rich. It’s not working well.

In Obama’s last year, the federal budget deficit was less than $600 billion. Trump’s first budget will come close to a $1 trillion deficit. Recall he ran on the idea of balancing the budget. Instead, he is increasing the deficit by more than 80 percent and will be adding trillions to the national debt. Doesn’t seem like a good way to run a business, but maybe he thinks so. Hence the bankruptcies.

His fiscal irresponsibility isn’t the only thing. How about the way he treats staff? Firings are done on a regular basis and the notifications are done by tweets. He might have run his businesses like that, but it doesn’t work in government. A president needs strong support from staff, and creating employment uncertainty won’t accomplish that. Come to think of it, arrogant tyrants aren’t all that successful in the business world either.

Nowhere have Trump’s presidential shortcomings become more apparent than in his latest dealings with the Chinese over trade. There is no question Chinese companies have not played fair in trade, especially where intellectual property is concerned, but that is a two-way street. American companies certainly engage in industrial espionage, and while perhaps not on the scale or with the effectiveness of the Chinese, it still exists. So rather than trying to negotiate with a trading partner, Trump chooses to bully and threaten. This tactic occasionally works in business, but the playing field is different in international trade. Trump’s tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum (which also fulfills a campaign promise of aiding our inefficient industries) invites them to retaliate. The president seemed surprised by this. After all, pushing people around worked for him in business, so why wouldn’t it work with foreigners? It doesn’t, and it again illustrates the ineptness of his leadership strategy.

Regardless, how much is our country being hurt, anyway? Trump inherited an economy with an unemployment rate heading toward historic lows, the number of welfare recipients declining and with Americans getting goods at pretty low prices. Does it then make sense for him to favor huge, poorly run steel and aluminum companies to betray agriculture and Iowans? The very groups that gave him so much support in the election?

The president’s job is enormously difficult and complex with a great deal of on-the-job learning. To be successful takes a lot of effort, but more, it takes a desire to learn. I don’t see that in Trump. Rather, he sees himself as the great and powerful, all-knowing wizard who appears to listen to no one except those who agree with him. Unless he changes his approach to the job, we are in for three more years of haphazard, random leadership that will not end well.

Fred Abraham is professor emeritus and former head of the Economics Department at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.


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