Donald Trump is all in a tither over the downturn in the market last week. He blames the grim figures not on his own rash decisions as he plunges headlong into a trade war crisis with China, but rather on “fake news” and a “conspiracy” of “establishment weenies” who don’t want him to win reelection. Experts are definite on a few points: 1. the odds of a recession have greatly increased; 2. If things keep going like they are, a recession may take place by mid-2020. To that I would add a third point, if in fact there is a recession, the Punchinellos in Trump’s administration are going to wantonly botch it and raise it to the level of farce — except we won’t be laughing. Washington Post:
Trump’s economic brain trust consists of a guy who plays an economist on TV, a crank who has been disowned by the (real) economics profession and the producer of “The Lego Batman Movie.”
For those unfamiliar with this particular dream team, the first person on that list is National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, an affable former CNBC personality. Kudlow has one skill that actually could be useful in a crisis: being able to communicate clearly to financial markets. That skill has been rendered moot, however, by Trump’s inability to settle on any consistent message worthy of communicating.
Next is senior White House aide and trade adviser Peter Navarro. When profiled in the New Yorker in 2016, Navarro could not name a single other economist who agreed with his views on trade. More recently, he suggested the Wall Street Journal editorial page sounded communist.
That’s a first, for sure.
And finally, there’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Bankrolling “Suicide Squad” and other movies — whatever their artistic merits — and earning the coveted title of greatest sycophant in Cabinet history bear little relevance to rescuing the world from economic crisis.
Moreover, Mnuchin’s Treasury Department is rife with vacancies. Many senior jobs lack even a nominee. There is likewise no nominee for the Senate-confirmed job of chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. The acting chair is a health expert.
Meanwhile, Trump attacks the Fed constantly, referring to Jerome Powell as “clueless,” when in fact, the Fed is the only place in this debauched administration where there are competent financial policymakers to be found. Trump’s immediate circle are the truly clueless. Surely you remember Kudlow’s famous last words in December 2007, “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen. The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come. Yes, it’s still the greatest story never told.”
That is the great financial prognosticator in action. That’s who Trump has leading the charge to economic greatness and in the case of a recession, the return to economic health. We are underwhelmed. And don’t forget Trump’s line, “Trade wars are good and easy to win.” Yet Jerome Powell is the clueless one? May God help us.