Monday, January 09, 2017

The uncertainty of Trump

Two leading economists are focusing on the many uncertainties about the policies of the upcoming Trump Family Business Administration. Brad DeLong looks at some historical experiences to address the question of Who Will Donald Trump Turn Out To Be? 01/08/2017. His historical sketch includes St. Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger as California Governor, Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and another politician, uh, Benito Mussolini.

He notes of the Reagan example that St. Reagan came into office with contradictory pronouncements about policy. And some of his decision had what conservative like to call in other contexts unintended consequences:

Reagan did not want the Argentine generals to think that, because they had aided the U.S. in its fight against communists in central America, the U.S. would stand by and be substantively neutral when Argentina launched its war against Britain to conquer the Falkland Islands. Yet the Argentina generals did think that, and they had--from their contacts with some of the most senior Reagan administration officials--reason to think that that was the case.
DeLong's evaluation of the Governator is also good: "As California governor he tried to make Hollywood-style deals and failed comprehensively. The state government went on autopilot. He hung out in his smoking tent with his cigars. It was eight years of missed opportunities to address the challenges facing California."

He refers to one of St. Reagan's quirks. For all his fondness for armaments and the Star Wars boondoggle, "Reagan wanted world peace--and talked about how if there were an alien menace we would all quickly see how unimportant all the issues that caused diplomatic trouble were."

Lou Cannon wrote about that quirk in his still-important account of St. Reagan's Presidency, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (1991):

In Hollywood he became an avid science-fiction fan, absorbed with a favorite theme of the genre: the invasion from outer space that prompts earthlings to put aside nationalistic quarrels and band together against an alien invader. Reagan liked this idea so much that he tried it out on Gorbachev in their first meeting at Geneva in 1985, saying that he was certain the United States and the Soviet Union would cooperate if Earth were threatened by an invasion from outer space. Reagan's idea was not part of the script, and it startled his advisers. It may also have startled Gorbachev, who did not have at his fingertips the Marxist-Leninist position on the propriety of cooperating with the imperialists against an interplanetary invasion. In any event, Gorbachev changed the subject. Reagan thought this meant he had scored a point, and he proudly repeated what he had said to Gorbachev to a group of Maryland high school students after he returned to the United States. He also repeated it to his advisers, to mixed reactions. ...

... [Colin Powell] knew more than he had ever wanted to know about Reagan's preoccupation with what Powell called "the little green men," and he struggled diligently to keep interplanetary references out of Reagan's speeches. Powell was convinced that Reagan's unique proposal·to Gorbachev had been inspired by a 1951 science-fiction film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. (p. 61; my emphasis)
Who says art has nothing to do with politics?

Joe Stiglitz also writes about Trumpian Uncertainty Project Syndicate 01/09/2017:

... the Republican/Trump agenda, with its tax cuts even more weighted toward the rich than the standard GOP recipe would imply, is based on the idea of trickle-down prosperity – a continuation of the Reagan era’s supply-side economics, which never actually worked. Fire-breathing rhetoric, or raving three a.m. tweets, may assuage the anger of those left behind by the Reagan revolution, at least for a while. But for how long? And what happens then?

Trump might like to repeal the ordinary laws of economics, as he goes about his version of voodoo economics. But he can’t.

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