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President Trump’s Paralyzing Uncertainty

“You know we have a treaty with Japan where if Japan is attacked, we have to use the full force and might of the United States. If we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to do anything. They can sit home and watch Sony television, OK?” Thus spoke Donald Trump witheringly just six months ago. But wait – on Friday he said, “We are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control and to further strengthening our very crucial alliance,” adding later, after North Korea tested a ballistic missile, “The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”

All politicians contradict themselves, but rarely as often, as starkly, or on such crucial issues as Trump does. A looming danger is that by doing so, he continues to undermine the pro-business stance he’s trying to maintain. Uncertainty paralyzes, and he risks paralyzing four of the most important players in the U.S. economy:

-The Fed. Vice chairman Stanley Fischer on Saturday cited “significant uncertainty” about Trump’s fiscal policy, which makes the Fed’s job harder. Reduced confidence about the Fed’s future actions spooks investors, executives, and consumers.

-Importers. Trump keeps threatening border taxes yet has said he dislikes the border-adjustment feature of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposed corporate tax overhaul, which might or might not (depending on which lobbyist you listen to) increase costs for importers. How can any executive make a confident decision about importing (or not) anything? That’s a giant issue right now for many major industries, such as autos.

-Companies that employ foreigners, especially if they’re Muslim or Mexican. That means every large business and quite a few small ones. It’s not that all employers oppose Trump’s executive orders on immigration, though many of them do. But the orders are vaguely written, subject to wide interpretation by officials and individual border agents, and in any case tied up in the courts for who knows how long with who knows what outcome. Some companies now refuse to send certain employees overseas, for fear they won’t be able to re-enter, and some foreigners refuse to travel to the U.S. As a result, the pace of business slows down.

-The health care sector. It’s arguably America’s largest industry, and many of its participants would be happy, in principle, to see Trump and Congress replace Obamacare. But with what? Trump has called for swift replacement but has no proposal, and Congressional Republicans can’t agree on one. A hospital trade group is already lobbying against Obamacare repeal. Everyone in the industry figures Obamacare in its present form is going, but no one has a clue what’s coming.

America needs a more pro-business Washington. And yes, uncertainty about future policy is eternal. But this is different; it’s uncertainty about fundamental plans for future policy. One result: less certainty, less confidence, less action. That’s bad for business.

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What We’re Reading Today

Washington stops a German company…
…from buying a North Carolina firm. The decision by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. was a surprise. German chipmaker Infineon Technologies was to buy Wolfspeed for $850 million, and while the Obama administration prevented two acquisitions by Chinese firms, this decision raises questions about U.S.-German relations. No reason for the decision was given. Fortune

Samsung head questioned for a second time
Samsung vice chairman Jay Lee was questioned for a second time by special prosecutors investigating corruption linked to impeached President Park Geun-hye. The prosecutors suspect Lee authorized payments to foundations run by a Park confidant in order to win approval of a merger. Lee and Samsung deny the allegations. CNBC

VW and its union clash over turnaround plan 
Labor leaders ended negotiations on overtime, efficiency gains, and apprenticeships, saying VW brand chief Herbert Diess wants to make cuts faster than previously agreed; the union wants greater participation from CEO Matthias Müller. The disagreements could delay Müller’s plan to revive profits by 2020 at the company’s biggest brand, Volkswagen. Reuters

188,000 evacuated around California dam
Residents downstream of the Oroville Dam were ordered to leave as a spillway erodes. Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. USA Today

Building Better Leaders

Get rid of these words on the resume
“Hardworking,” “Microsoft Office,” “objective,” and “rockstar” will get your resume rejected before you ever land the interview. Fast Company

In order to make a lasting impression while networking…
…look for unique ways to make a connection. You can write a handwritten note or periodically work out of coffee shops in order to create natural interactions. Fortune

Black tech workers are nearly 50% more likely to be hired…
…in San Francisco or New York but will make $10,000 less in those cities on average. USA Today

Trump Talk

National Security Adviser’s position grows weak
The Trump administration is weighing options for National Security Adviser Mike Flynn after revelations that he discussed sanctions with Russian officials before President Trump‘s inauguration, having previously denied it. Flynn has apologized for the incident, but it has caused a rift with Vice President Mike Pence. Trump has reportedly called the incident a distraction and remains confident in Flynn. WSJ

North Korea tests missile
North Korea said it successfully tested a mid-to-long-range ballistic missile Sunday. Trump‘s response will be scrutinized after his earlier calls for a tougher stance on North Korean missile testing. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea have called a UN Security Council meeting, which will take place today. Fortune

Franken says GOP senators have questioned Trump’s mental health
Senator Al Franken said a few Republican senators have questioned Trump‘s mental health. He cited Trump’s continued unsubstantiated claim that three to five million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton. “That is not the norm for a president of the United States or actually for a human being,” he said. The Hill

Fortune Reads and Videos

Verizon offers unlimited data
Lowell McAdam‘s company had long shied away from unlimited plans. The switch highlights the wireless industry’s intensifying price war.  Fortune

Tim Cook: Fake news is “killing people’s minds”
The Apple CEO has called on all tech companies to build tools that will fight the problem. Fortune 

President Trump turns his tweets to…
Mark Cuban, rekindling an old feud. Fortune

Muscle Milk creator turns to plant protein
CytoSport’s Evolve brand will feature vegan, plant-based protein shakes and powders. Fortune

Happy Birthday

Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus turns 51 today. Success Story

Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski turns 70. Sports Reference

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@ryanderous
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