President Trump has been handed a golden opportunity to show he’s making good on his pledge to drain the swamp. But this time targeting the actual swamp creatures won't be easy.
The phrase "drain the swamp" may elicit snickers by D.C. insiders, but during the 2016 presidential campaign many voters clearly felt that Washington was rigged against them and in favor of those with money and connections. Hillary Clinton represented more of the same, while Donald Trump was a Washington outsider who was uniquely suited to change the status quo of using government policy to benefit donors and insiders.
This month among one of several major trade cases, Trump will decide whether or not to approve new tariffs on imported solar panels. However, the real choice he faces is whether or not to flood or to drain the swamp. He can protect tens of thousands of blue-collar American jobs by not imposing tariffs, or alternatively, he can impose tariffs and bail out wealthy Democrat donors from Wall Street, swamp creatures who are financing two bankrupt solar companies. A look at just one potential beneficiary of new tariffs shows why this should be an easy decision.
One of the two companies who have asked the Trump administration to impose tariffs on imported solar panels is Solar World Americas, a subsidiary of German company Solar World AG that is currently in bankruptcy. SolarWorld Americas is a small company, employing approximately 300 people in Oregon, but it has a very big investor: Democratic megadonor Mark Gallogly.
Mark Gallogly is a poster child for the swamp. He is one of the largest Democratic donors, having given $200,000 to Obama for America in the 2014 midterm elections alone according to Open Secrets, and a former member of President Barack Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Gallogly is also the founder and managing principal of private equity firm Centerbridge, the lead lender to the now-bankrupt, German-owned SolarWorld AG.
Gallogly’s Centerbridge is trying to sell SolarWorld AG, but there are few takers for a company in bankruptcy. However, as Bloomberg has reported, if Gallogly can convince the Trump administration to bail out SolarWorld by imposing tariffs on solar panel imports into the U.S., then Centerbridge can complete the sale and reap a windfall. Here’s the catch: those same tariffs could threaten more than 80,000 American jobs in other companies.
The conservative R Street Institute released a white paper last fall titled “Is the sun rising in solar protectionism?” R Street reported that while there are more than 260,000 Americans employed in the solar industry, the two companies pushing for tariffs, including the Gallogly-financed SolarWorld, employ fewer than 1,000. R Street’s analysis further showed that if the price of solar cells went up due to the tariffs Gallogly and others are calling for, “approximately 88,000 solar jobs are in jeopardy.” Once other manufacturers who use solar cells are factored in, the job losses could be even worse.
This major Democratic donor and D.C. insider is pushing the Trump administration to impose tariffs that would put tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs at risk in order to benefit the investment of his multibillion-dollar private equity firm. That is a perfect example of why voters were so eager for an outsider to come to Washington and make a change. It also illustrates clearly why Trump should decline to impose the tariffs that the Gallogly-financed, German-owned company is calling for.
One of the lessons of the last year is that Trump takes the commitments he made during the campaign seriously, whether it’s appointing conservative judges, cutting taxes, or reducing regulations. His commitment to drain the swamp was a centerpiece of his campaign, and declining to institute new solar tariffs will show he’s serious about that also.
Horace Cooper is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is co-chair of Project 21 and an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research.
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