When President Trump announced American withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the criticisms of him were hardly muted, often hysterical and typically flawed. Among the many vapid attacks on Trump's decision, however, the worst was that big business opposed him.
"Trump's announcement will not enhance his image as a pro-business president," tireless Trump critic Jennifer Rubin wrote at The Washington Post's "Right Turn" blog. "A wide array of CEOs from virtually every sector of the economy have lobbied strenuously to keep the United States in the agreement."
Business opposition to Trump is part of why Paris withdrawal is "a loser in terms of domestic policy," Rubin concluded.
She's right on the basic fact: Big business has lobbied for U.S. participation in the Paris accords.
"Trump has actively ignored corporate leaders' calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the liberal website Vox reported. "Many of America's largest businesses and corporations have been vocal in their support for government policies meant to curb carbon emissions."
Newspapers and television ads last week featured a letter signed by the CEOs of 60 Fortune 500 companies, in which they "re-affirm[ed] our deep commitment to addressing climate change," which somehow involved staying in the nonbinding Paris accord.
"As a matter of principle," tweeted Bob Iger, CEO of the heavily subsidized Walt Disney Co., "I've resigned from the President's Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal.
Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote to his employees to express his "disappointment" in Trump's decision and to explain that he tried to talk Trump out of the decision. Google executives expressed similar sadness.
"Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world," Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein mourned.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt supported Paris and declared himself "Disappointed with today's decision on the Paris Agreement."
Heck, even Exxon Mobil got on board with the Paris accord before Trump jumped ship.
So Rubin is correct that "pulling out of the agreement risks putting him in a newly adversarial relationship with businesses and some big pro-business donors."
The folly is in assuming that it's good politics or good economics to side with big business. Yet many observers seem to assume that what's good for General Electric is good for America.
"There are no parties that are better situated to speak with authority on what's good for the economy, what's good for jobs, and what's good for innovation and competitiveness" Ted Halstead, founder of the Climate Leadership Council, told The Washington Post, "than the CEOs of America's largest companies," as the Post put it.
The unconsidered possibility here: The CEOs of America's biggest companies could have particular interests that don't align with the American economy as a whole.
Large multinational corporations might prefer a global regulatory regime that would simplify things for themselves while imposing tough costs on smaller competitors, reducing competition and raising prices. These big companies might also be well positioned to lobby for the right subsidies, the right mandates and the right regulations that give them a competitive advantage. U.S. consumers and small businesses lack that sort of reach into governments here and abroad.
The other odd idea from the climate deal's defenders is that somehow Paris provides a business opportunity that Americans would lose if we withdrew.
"Watching other countries take the lead in green technologies won't help Trump's promise to get America back to winning again," Rubin wrote. This was a favorite Obama line for the past eight years. "As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy," President Barack Obama said, "so must we."
But it just isn't so.
China is a Communist-run government with a managed economy. They should not be our role model. The United Kingdom has largely abandoned its effort to win the green-energy Olympics. Spain's "green jobs" undertaking ended up costing jobs and was widely panned as a failure.
So chasing more centrally planned economies as they engage in a green-energy subsidy arms race would be a supremely stupid case of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Of course, pursuing more green energy might make sense even without subsidies. Technologies that conserve energy are often good investments in their own right. U.S. businesses will be exactly as well positioned to pursue such innovation absent Paris membership as they would be under the accord — regardless of whether the treaty ended up imposing binding emissions constraints.
Trump sometimes makes the mistake of putting too much stake in the opinions of CEOs. On Paris, thankfully, he ignored their pleadings.
Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.