Trump’s Attack on Harley Davidson Sounds Like Something the Obama Administration Would Do


The Harley-Davidson logo is seen on the fuel tank of a motorcycle on display at the Oakland Harley-Davidson dealership in Oakland, California, on April 14, 2017. MUST CREDIT: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Recently iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson announced that they may be shifting more of their operations overseas do to the Trump administration’s trade policies – specifically announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminium – driving up the cost of manufacturing.

That inspired a tirade from the President on Twitter:

I’ll leave it to others to decide if Harley-Davidson is playing politics, using the politics of the moment as cover for a previously-decided move overseas. There’s no question that Trump’s policies are increasing the cost of manufacturing in the United States.

President Trump apparently expects that American companies sit still for those higher costs. Which sounds exactly like something the Obama administration would do.

I was actually reminded of something former President Joe Biden said back in 2008. In comments backing tax hikes, Biden suggested that it was our duty as citizens to pay higher taxes. “We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people,” he said at the time. “It’s time to be patriotic … time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut.”

If you don’t like the government raising your taxes you aren’t patriotic. Sound familiar, Trump supporters?

Also in 2015 the Obama administration announced a plan to take aim at American companies limiting their tax liability in America by keeping the international profits they earned offshore. Obama’s idea was to implement a tax on those revenues, though a better approach would be to modify the domestic tax code to make it less prohibitive to bring those profits home.

Which, by the way, was exactly Trump’s position on the policy. “We’re going to lower our business tax, which is the highest in the world,” he said in the early days of his administration while unwinding the Obama-era policies.

Private businesses are going to react rationally to government policy. If tax policy or regulations drive up the cost of business, business owners are going to try and find ways to avoid those cost increases. Sometimes that includes operating outside of our nation’s borders.

The Obama administration characterized that sort of thing as unpatriotic as it pertained to taxes and Trump, rightly, was critical. Yet now Trump expects American companies to sit still as he drives up their cost of doing business with trade tariffs.

How is that any different?

I can understand those who argue that Trump’s efforts on trade are going to create some turbulence, and that we should be prepared to weather it in exchange for better trade deals. But it’s something else entirely to attack a company for reacting in a rational way to the changes Trump’s policies are creating.

Our goal should always be to make America the sort of place where companies choose to do business. Expecting companies to deal with a higher cost of doing business out of some sense of patriotism is absurd. And, again, the osrt of thing the Obama administration would do.