Trump threatens selective 'retribution' against U.S. companies outsourcing jobs


Comments from Trump and Mike Pence show an emergent concept of capricious interference in the free market and a growing affinity for heavy-handed statism, in a stark divergence from GOP orthodoxy going back decades.

President-elect Donald Trump went on a yet another Twitter tear, which included a deeply troubling promise to exact "retribution" against any company that threatens to move jobs offshore:

If he were true to his word, the first victim of Trump's "retribution" would be Carrier.

But Trump's deal with Carrier allows the company to move 1,300 jobs from Indianapolis to Mexico, and included no consequences, but rather the gift of $7 million in tax breaks, thanks to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is still Governor of Indiana, the state whence came the tax breaks.

A company that gives Trump a photo-op, or in which he has profitably invested, will be gifted a plum deal, but other companies will be on the receiving end of his petulant Twitter rantings:

Clearly, Trump's sworn "retribution" will be selectively applied — which was confirmed by Pence during an interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos: Does he now pick up the phone and call the head of Rexnord? Does he call all these other companies who are going to move overseas?

Pence: Well, I think what you're going to see and the president-elect will make those decisions on a day-by-day basis in the course of the transition, in the course of the administration.

Pence's support for Trump's retribution-at-whim scheme also serves to underscore the degree to which their brand of conservatism is becoming increasingly unmoored from principle — and divergent from the Republican Party's longstanding supposed opposition to statism and economic intervention in free markets.

(The president is not actually empowered to enact tariffs, but the office affords many other opportunities to exert pressure on businesses if its occupant is willing.)

Republicans have spent the last eight years decrying President Obama as a socialist, and denouncing even the slightest use of government spending or regulation to influence the private sector as Soviet-style control. Tea Party protestors spoke against Obama's policies, even market-based ones, as nothing less than the end of free enterprise.

In 2008, Pence himself wrote an op-ed opposing the bank bailouts, declaring that "Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail." But apparently, he did not believe that the Carrier plant in Indiana deserved the freedom to fail.

There are good faith arguments about the value of government intervention. Among them are not an argument to rescue businesses on the basis of the president's whims.

We now face the prospect of a government that neglects critical investments in infrastructure, education, and scientific research, while simultaneously recasting exorbitant taxpayer-funded public relations stunts as effective economic policy.

(Matthew Chapman contributed to this article.)