With his administration engulfed in legal and political crisis, President Donald Trump is almost certainly going to have to rely more and more on the relatively strong state of the economy – from relatively low unemployment to a robust stock market — to make his case for a second term in next year’s elections.
But one key constituency, small business owners, appear to be increasingly dissatisfied with President Trump, despite having been one of his biggest supporters in 2016. Recent polling tells the story, with 37 percent of small business owners expressing a preference for Trump, while 44 percent favor a Democratic candidate.
Now, a group made up largely of Democratic centrists, the Business Forward Foundation, is seeking to make the case that President Trump’s agenda has not been nearly as friendly to business as he claims. Drawing from economic data cited by Republicans and Democrats alike, the group has compiled a report, to be released this week, that it says makes a strong case against Trump’s policies.
The timing of the report is noteworthy, coming as anti-corporate rhetoric dominates the debate in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party as the 2020 elections approach. In issuing the report, the group appears to be seeking a middle ground between key business constituencies and some of the business community’s more ardent critics on the Left.
The move carries potentially significant political consequences, at a time when polls indicate a notable reversal in the two-to-one advantage Trump had over Hillary Clinton among small business owners in 2016 partly as a result of his promise to pursue an agenda that would stimulate the economy and create jobs.
In addition, the substance and tone of the Business Forward Foundation message is likely to appeal to moderates in both parties, including in historically blue states like Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin that Mr. Trump won in 2016.
In fact, the group is challenging the soundness of a host of policy initiatives championed by President Trump, whose chances of winning a second term would greatly improve if he could pick up the support of independent voters and moderate Democrats.
“Nearly three years into Trump’s first term, Americans are also asking about Trump’s record,” said Jim Doyle, the foundation’s president. “Did his ‘middle class tax cut’ actually help the middle class? Are we winning these trade wars?”
“Can Trump bring back the manufacturing jobs we lost?” Mr. Doyle continued “And why is he cutting programs that make it easier for working women to plan and raise their families?”
The group says it has devised an agenda of business-focused policies that could lift the fortunes of both business leaders and working families. It detailed this agenda in a lengthy report that it plans to release this week. It says that it is embracing approaches that are guided by common-sense principles rather than ideology.
In its report, the group also challenges Trump on a number of policy fronts. Among the questions the group asks are:
Q: Do we need to build a wall?
A: No. There are better, cheaper ways to protect the border. Trump should focus less attention on his wall and start fixing the bridges, levees, roads, and railways U.S. businesses need.
Q: Are Trump’s tax cuts helping the middle class?
A: Not really. Most of Trump’s $1.9 trillion in cuts benefit wealthy families (be design) and Trump wants to pay for it all but cutting social security and health care.
Q: Should Washington do more to save coal?
A: No. Taxpayers already spend billions of dollars each year subsidizing coal companies. Automation, surface mining, and natural gas are the real threat to the coal industry.
Q: Are we winning these trade wars?
A: No. Trade wars cause higher prices, layoffs, lost exports, and slower growth. This one is worse because Trump is burning our biggest industries to prop up smaller ones.
Q: What’s holding our small businesses back?
A: Finding a fair loan and managing college debt.