Several news outlets have reported about the tremendous access chief executives have to the Trump administration. According to many of the accounts, corporate titans are exercising a moderating influence on President Donald Trump — a counterweight, presumably, to the nationalist agenda of Steve Bannon and other administration hard-liners.
But this analysis misses the mark. CEOs are not headed to the White House for the good of anything beyond their companies’ bottom lines. And, in many cases, they have positioned their companies to benefit from Trump’s agenda. In short, the Trump agenda is not being softened by billionaires. It is designed for billionaires.
Trump’s budget and tax proposals offer the most obvious signs. His budget proposal would eviscerate the nation’s social safety net, including more than $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and public benefits.
Meanwhile, Trump’s sweeping tax cuts would benefit billionaires and large corporations first and foremost. And, the gutting of environmental and financial regulations would pad the pockets of the ultra-wealthy.
Score one for the billionaires.
The same is true for health care. The American Health Care Act, or TrumpCare, that passed the House would strip 23 million Americans of their health insurance and simultaneously would give billions in tax breaks to the nation’s highest earners.
The pattern holds when it comes to proposals to attack immigrant communities and criminalize people of color. When you examine which companies and corporate leaders are cozying up to Trump, you’ll see that many are positioned to benefit from his agenda.
Take JPMorgan Chase. Since the election, the company contributed $500,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, and chief executive Jamie Dimon accepted a seat on Trump’s business advisory council. Some say Dimon is a moderating influence on Trump — arguing, for instance, against labeling China a currency manipulator and potentially sparking a trade war. But Dimon recently declared that Trump’s economic platform is “the right agenda.” And responding to angry shareholders about his support for Trump, Dimon said he was a “patriot” for working with the administration.
Dimon’s company also stands to benefit from Trump’s anti-immigrant dragnet. As Trump pursues a mass deportation strategy that will rely upon rapid expansions in private immigrant detention centers, JPMorgan Chase is financing the very private prison companies, such as the Geo Group and CoreCivic, most eager to meet that demand. In short, the company has a financial interest in the companies that Trump is relying on to implement his anti-immigrant agenda.
That’s why a new national campaign has labeled JPMorgan Chase, as well as eight other companies, the “Corporate Backers of Hate.” While many of their leaders pursue a close relationship with the Trump administration, these companies stand to profit from the administration’s policies.
Members of Congress who have stood with Trump have felt the wrath of angry constituents at town halls, or faced forceful protest when they refused to hear from voters in their districts. Major companies standing with Trump’s agenda are now starting to feel this same citizen anger, and their CEOs and corporate board members would be foolish to ignore the reputational risk.
When citizens and consumers see corporate leaders cozying up to a president advancing a hateful agenda, or when we see companies positioned to benefit from such an odious platform, we are not fooled into thinking that these companies are acting to moderate an extremist.
Instead, we know that they are thinking first and foremost of their own bottom lines, regardless of the damage being inflicted on our communities.
Daniel Altschuler is the director of civic engagement and research of Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights group in New York. Julio López Varona is the director of Make the Road Connecticut.