The chairman and president of the nation’s largest car dealer company, Mike Jackson of AutoNation, blasted Donald Trump and others who rail against immigrants and international trade deals, during a keynote address to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
In his speech Thursday night to the chamber’s Future of Florida Forum Leadership Dinner in Orlando, Jackson outlined four things he called the four flat tires in the American economy. And besides over-regulation and complex, too-high taxes, he said the nation’s refusal to pursue deals to open international trade, and its anti-immigration fervor are having profound effects slowing the economy.
Jackson, whose Fort Lauderdale company is the nation’s largest automotive retailer with dealerships in 15 states, said he is so upset that the anti-immigration and anti-trade deal positions have taken favor in the Republican Party that he recently quit the party to become an independent, and said he cannot support Trump.
“The Republican Party at the moment is unrecognizable from anything I’ve ever known,” Jackson said.
He was equally critical of Democrats, saying they are moving toward European-style socialism “at breakneck speed.” But said he would be supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton because he’s convinced she has less potential to do major damage.
He brought the house down by declaring, and illustrating with a cartoon, that Trump, in his view, is the “billionaire Archie Bunker” from the TV show “All In The Family,” while Clinton is the diabolically “cunning Claire Underwood” from “House Of Cards.”
But Jackson’s speech focused most passionately on the two issues he said are being misunderstood, the nation’s need to embrace immigrants, even those who came in illegally; and the nation’s need to greatly expand its trade deals worldwide.
Immigrants, he said, risk all to come to America and bring daring entrepreneurial spirits, as evidenced by a fact he cited — 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants.
Yet America has had net-outward immigration since President Barack Obama took office, and that is leading to shortages of labor, especially among people who really want to work hard and bring risk-taking entrepreneurial attitudes, he said.
“What made America great? Immigration,” Jackson said. “Yeah, things got a little out of control there for 15 years, before Barack Obama; we ended up with these 12 million undocumented people in the United States. But for the last eight years it’s actually been going the other way, more migration from the United States to Mexico than from Mexico to the United States.
“So if you build this wall, you’re trapping people in the United States,” he said, to howls of laughter.
Trade deals, he said, open the world. The reason so many companies have opened factories in Mexico, he argued, is not because NAFTA is unfair to the United States, but because Mexico, unlike the United States, followed up on NAFTA by signing additional trade deals with scores of other countries. Consequently, products made in Mexico can be shipped almost anywhere duty-free, while products made in the United States face stiff tariffs worldwide. The same is true of bringing in materials from other countries, he said.
“So eventually, car manufacturers said, ‘You know what? We’re going to Mexico.’ Everybody thinks its the cost of labor. That’s not it,” Jackson said. “It’s not because we have too many trade agreements. It’s because we don’t have enough trade agreements.
“It’s mind-boggling to me that both the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate are saying no to new trade deals. It’s unbelievable,” he said.