Angry over cutbacks, Trump threatens to end GM subsidies

AP Photo/Paul Sancya, GENERAL MOTORS ANNOUNCED Monday it will lay off thousands of workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures. Among the possibilities are the Detroit/Hamtramck assembly plant, which makes the Buick LaCrosse, the Chevrolet Impala and Volt, and the Cadillac CT6, all slow-selling cars.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump tested the limits of his presidential authority and political muscle as he threatened Tuesday to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its planned massive cutbacks in the U.S.

Trump unloaded on Twitter a day after GM announced it would shutter five plants and slash 14,000 jobs in North America. Many of the job cuts would affect the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth. It was the latest example of the president’s willingness to attempt to meddle in the affairs of private companies and to threaten the use of government power to try to force their business decisions.

“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland” while sparing plants in Mexico & China, Trump tweeted, adding: “The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”

Trump’s tweets followed a short time after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House’s reaction to the automaker’s announcement was “a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger.” Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.

“Look, we made this deal, we’ve worked with you along the way, we’ve done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations,” Kudlow said, referencing the recent U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. “We’ve done this to help you and I think his disappointment is, it seems like that they kind of turned his back on him.”

A day earlier, Trump issued a vague threat to GM to preserve a key plant in the presidential bellwether state of Ohio, where the company has marked its Lordstown plant for closure. “That’s Ohio, and you better get back in there soon,” he said.

It’s not clear precisely what action against GM might be taken, and there are questions whether the president can act without congressional approval.

Buyers of electric vehicles made by GM and other automakers get federal tax credits of up to $7,500, helping to reduce the price as an incentive to get more of the zero-emissions vehicles on the road. But GM is on the cusp of reaching its subsidy limit.

Trump has long promised to return manufacturing jobs to the United States and particularly the Midwest. At a summer rally near GM’s Lordstown plant, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are “all coming back.”

GM tried to appease the Trump administration Tuesday afternoon while justifying the decisions. “We appreciate the actions this administration has taken on behalf of industry to improve the overall competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing,” its statement said.

Many of the workers who will lose jobs if the plants close could transfer to another GM factory where production is being increased, a spokesman said. For example, GM plans to add hundreds of workers at its pickup truck plant in Flint.

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