As you’ve probably heard by now, on Monday General Motors announced it would be cutting 15 percent of its salaried workforce and closing five North American factories. While C.E.O. Mary Barra said no single event prompted the cuts, some of the factors that clearly led to the retrenchment include a slowdown in new car sales, bets on smaller vehicles not panning out, and the president’s trade war, which has spiked the price of steel, and which G.M. warned in June would impact its profits and U.S. jobs. In short, the move was a logical decision that you might expect someone like Donald Trump, a self-described businessman who claims to know “more about” money, taxes, trading, banking, and the economy than anyone, to understand. But, of course, Trump is only a businessman in so much as he played one on TV—his real-life accomplishments are more along the lines of bankrupting a casino and receiving a lifetime allowance from his father, who had to bail him out on numerous occasions. Which is why, instead of saying that he was disappointed about the news but understood that G.M. was in a tough position and, hey, maybe in retrospect it was silly to promise auto-manufacturing jobs were “coming back,” or to pass a tax bill that incentivized companies to send jobs and factories abroad, Trump told a reporter that G.M. “better damn well open a new plant there very quickly,” that the company is “playing around with the wrong person,” and that Barra will have “a problem” if she doesn’t immediately open a new facility. And then on Tuesday, still foaming at the mouth, he came out with this:
Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 27 November 2018
Obviously, the president of the United States threatening to punish a private company for making a decision based on market realities that are partially his fault is . . . really something! But the whole thing takes on some extra hilarity when you realize, for the 927th time this year, what this not-at-all-smart guy is unintentionally proposing. As Dan Primack points out, subsidies for G.M.-specific electric vehicles do not exist. Rather, there are industry-wide federal tax credits of up to $7,500 available for purchasers of U.S. electric cars, with “aggregate caps of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer.” In other words, getting rid of the subsidy in its current form would hurt both American consumers and other auto manufacturers.