The relationship between Donald J. Trump and economists is a bizarre one. Trump shuns economists while embracing many of their ideas. Meanwhile the economists rush to condemn Trump in public statements, even as they inquire about jobs in his administration.
Trump’s administration would the most economically focused in a long time. The President-Elect wants to create a White House National Trade Council headed by Peter Navarro; an economics Professor at the University of California-Irvine. Strangely, Navarro is apparently the only academic economist to join the Trump administration.
“I think the president can get any economist he wants,” Glenn Hubbard, the Dean of Columbia Business School said of Trump in a CNBC interview. Hubbard headed former President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Does Trump Want Economists’ Help?
Yet, Trump has made no serious efforts to recruit any academic economists, CNBC reported. Even though he has gone out of his way to recruit a variety of advisors and turned the appointment of cabinet members into a media circus.
It is not clear if this reflects hostility to academics and intellectuals in the Trump camp. A strong possibility is that Trump, has already recruited a circle of economic advisors but is keeping them secret to keep from offending his populist supporters.
Part of Donald’s appeal during the election was his anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism. Much of which is obviously an act, Trump is a graduate of one of America’s elite business schools; the University of Pennsylvania. The Donald obviously understands the value of advice from economists – even if his supporters do not.
Trump’s Strange Relationship with Economists
The relationship Trump has with economists is a strange one. His economic policies are rooted in classic Keynesianism; they involve the use of increased spending in an attempt to achieve full employment. Yet the many economists seem to be afraid to have anything do with them.
One reason for that might be that the economists are afraid Trump’s efforts will fail and discredit them, and their profession in the process. That might be why some of them are going out their way to distance themselves from Trump.
“There is a broad consensus that the kind of policies that our president-elect has proposed; are among the polices that will not work,” Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz told Bloomberg. Stiglitz was one of a number of star economists to bash Trumponomics at the American Economics Association meeting in Chicago in early January.
Economists Oppose Trump but Don’t Say Why
Strangely enough only two of the economists interviewed by Bloomberg, were willing to get specific about their objections to Trump’s policies. A possible reason for this is that Trump’s policies are similar to suggestions by neo-Keynesians- such as Paul Krugman. Perhaps they do not want their beliefs to be associated with Trump.
Not surprisingly Austrian-school inspired critics were more vocal in their attacks on Trump.
“Such a policy runs the risk it could lead to an explosion of public debt and ultimately cause a serious loss of confidence and a deep recession,” Columbia University’s Edmund Phelps said of Trump’s proposals for tax cuts and increased spending. Phelps criticisms sound a great deal like classic denunciations of Keynesian policies.
These interviews expose the bizarre relationship between Trump and economists. The President-Elect seems to like many of their ideas, but he does not seem to like them. Even economists that appear sympathetic to some of Trump’s ideas don’t like him.
A reason for economists’ stand offish attitudes might be found in the American intelligentsia’s dislike of Trump. Economics professors might be afraid they won’t be welcome in the faculty lounge; or at the golf game, if they are seen as sympathetic to Trump.
One thing is clear here, Trump is certainly a test for economists. He wants to turn his administration into a laboratory to test many of their theories. Yet, the president-elect does not want them in the lab, and many of them don’t want to be there.
That raises the question: will the Trump administration improve the reputation of economics and economists or destroy it? By putting economics center stage; but ignoring economists, Trump might succeed in destroying the profession’s credibility.