Trump’s allies see the light

Here’s the Washington Post:

In short, Trump’s allies are admitting what numerous experts have said for months: That in order to seriously get back on track to economic recovery, we have to tame the virus first. And they’re admitting that this is a key reason he’s in trouble.

Trump bought into the “health vs. the economy” framing, which I kept arguing was wrong. Now his allies have come to the conclusion that the economy can’t get better if the virus is out of control.

In the Trumpist mythology, when he called for the LIBERATION of states from lockdowns, he was harnessing the populist rage rolling across the land over elites who were constraining Real Americans from getting back to their labor.

Trumpism’s propagandists have worked hard to keep this mythology alive. And media coverage of this or that Trump voter showcasing his disdain for masks as a badge of loyalty to him surely helps fuel it in his mind as well.

Yet it’s plainly obvious that Trump’s refusal to accept that core contrary truth — that we can’t roar back economically until the virus is tamed — is also a big reason his reelection is in trouble.

It’s not clear that Trump could have done all that much to slow the epidemic. But that’s not the point. He could have done at least a little bit to slow it. And far, far, far more importantly, he at least could have looked like he was trying to slow it down.

Trump still may win (40% chance), but this strategic mistake is making that task much harder. Perhaps Trump will be forced to provoke a military confrontation with China in October, to rescue his campaign.

PS. In a new book, Trump’s niece describes what Trump was like when young. Cheated on his SAT? Learning disabilities that make it hard for him to process information? Trashed his brother to get the family business? Reckless hyperbole that hides his pathological weaknesses and insecurities? Fakes his Christianity? No sense of humor? Bully? Narcissist? Liar? This is all new to me. Alert the media!



10 Responses to “Trump’s allies see the light”

  1. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    8. July 2020 at 16:46

    By many accounts, Trump the person is unpleasant.

    But recent history shows that Trump wants to remove US troops from Afghanistan but has been booby-trapped by both establishment Republicans and Democrats in this reasonable policy.

    As I have asked myself so many times, is Trump really any worse, in terms of policy, than the establishment parties?

    And, ironically enough, Trump has been on the same page as Scott Sumner when it comes to monetary policy.

  2. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    8. July 2020 at 18:23

    Scott, at least the learning difficulties should make for a heartwarming story about overcoming the odds. And he only had to take on the whole political establishment of both American political parties to get there.

    Benjamin, Scott and Trump haven’t been on the same page. Didn’t Trump ask for higher interest rates under Obama? In any case, at any given point in time you can eitue only loosen or tighten monetary policy. With so few choices, you are bound to have some overlap between people of otherwise very different opinion from time to time. So the more useful stance is our host’s: Scott suggests you compare people preferred policy frameworks for how to conduct policy, not just whether they currently would prefer loosening or tightening.

    (As an interesting hypothetical, a politician in favour of a fixed per capita nominal GDP would have disagreed with Scott on whether to loosen or tighten most of the time, but I expect Scott would recognise that hypothetical fellow as being in close agreement with himself on most monetary questions. Closer than Trump in any case.)

  3. Gravatar of Aleksandar Aleksandar
    8. July 2020 at 22:10


    In your blog post ‘Bubble world is here’ you mentioned:

    “I like the term “everything bubble”. For a number of years I’ve been claiming that the 21st century would be full of “bubbles” that were not actually bubbles.”

    This will happen because in your words:

    “low interest rates as far as the eye can see means that asset prices will look bubble-like”

    But you did not explain why, you did not explain mechanism behind that. There are some links in post but they also do not explain mechanism.

    Can you point to some other blog post where you explain this in detail?


  4. Gravatar of Thomas Hutcheson Thomas Hutcheson
    9. July 2020 at 03:20

    But are there not more and less costly means of slowing the spread of disease? Isn’t regulating HOW businesses can operate (capacity, distancing constraints, use of masks indoors, increased non-recirculated air, paid sick leave for employees) changing as different risks are assessed better than closing down certain lines of activity based on how “essential” they are.

    And if more of the fall in consumer (and indirectly investment) expenditure is due to consumers reducing expenditures on items that are not supply constrained, does that not mean that the Fed could have maintained NGDP growth by just meeting its 2% PCE inflation target; it would not have needed to push inflation above the PL target, even temporarily?

    How do we explain the Fed’s policy of allowing TIPS to remain so far below PCE equivalent?

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    9. July 2020 at 04:16

    Matthias G: in fact Trump has been calling for easier money for the entirety of his presidency, which is in confluence with Scott’s Sumner’s views. Trump has but few virtues, one of them is that he is not part of the old tight-money crowd that seems to infect the GOP. (After nearly four years I think we can say Trump is not a militarist either, in contrast to GOP and Donk establishments).

    If Obama or Bush jr. had any views on monetary policy, they were not obvious to me. Obama played identity politics and appointed Janet Yellen to be chair of the Federal Reserve, and she lacked the nerve to promote the expansionist policy that we needed.

  6. Gravatar of bb bb
    9. July 2020 at 06:56

    – “It’s not clear that Trump could have done all that much to slow the epidemic. But that’s not the point. He could have done at least a little bit to slow it. And far, far, far more importantly, he at least could have looked like he was trying to slow it down.”
    I may be a matter of semantics, but still firmly believe that this could have been much better with a competent president.
    First off, government agencies have a lot of inertia, as most large organizations do. Leadership is required to shift focus and resources. There was much that could have been done, and still can be done, better. Data gathering should have been more robust. Now that we are 6 months into this, we should be sitting on a mountain of data. We’ve had 3 million cases and we are still speculating on what’s safe and what isn’t. Second, the data should have been shared. NYT had to take CDC to court to make their data public. We could have done much better contact tracing. We could have hired a Census-type army of contact tracers. PPE could have been managed much better and probably still could. We were also very slow on ramping up testing, and we appear to be approaching another shortage. We could have led the international response. Previous administrations would have had people on the ground at all the hotspots gathering information and providing support to contain the pandemic before it hit our shores. And we could have helped developing countries avoid disasters. It’s our fault that China was able to withhold information to the degree that they did.
    A competent president from either party would have put someone in charge of each initiative, and would have asked for daily updates. Know that your project is briefed to the president daily is motivating. Can we admit that at least some of this would have had a positive effect?
    Second, the public health message could not have been worse. The president of the United States deliberately started and continues to perpetuate a partisan fight over whether to follow the advice of public health officials. Masks are the most visible symbol, but ignoring the advice of public health officials is widespread, and likely contributed to the current surge. And it probably triggered some unhelpful behavior on the left as well.
    Third, a competent administration would have learned from mistakes. I think Churchill said “America always does the right thing, after exhausting all other options”. Not this time.
    Fourth, he should have attended the briefings when he became president. He should not have thrown away the playbook that Obama left him (btw, GW left a playbook to Obama too. He shouldn’t have eliminated the pandemic response team in the NSC. He should have maintained the PPE stockpile.
    Finally, we are doing worse than everyone else. Prior to this pandemic we were considered the world leaders in dealing with epidemics. Now we are considered the worst of large developed countries. What changed?
    I agree that there were many contributing factors, including at the local level, but the trump administration should not be left off the hook.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. July 2020 at 10:32

    Matthias, You said:

    “Scott, at least the learning difficulties should make for a heartwarming story about overcoming the odds.”

    Yes, the thought of Trump paying someone lots of money to take the SAT test for him brings tears to my eyes. What a rags to riches story.

    Aleksander, The mechanism is a rightward shift in the saving schedule and a leftward shift in the investment schedule.

    Ben, You never learn. Trump favored tighter money in 2015.

    bb, Yes, Trump did an extremely poor job.

  8. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    9. July 2020 at 12:50

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, can’t get fooled again.

    I was certain that the Republicans in Congress would at least be a check on his rampant corruption. I figured that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were going to sit him down in 2017 and make him divest from his hotel, refuse foreign government money, and block his hiring of his daughter and son-in-law to White House positions. I thought that was going to be a line that was too central to the conservative ideology, and that they were going to make a quiet, but firm stand. I was wrong.

    In March, I was certain that the Republican governors were going to realize that the virus posed an existential threat to many citizens and to their own political power. I thought that my state’s Republican senator was going to make a racket about Trump’s refusal to organize testing, PPE, contact tracing, or any kind of national policy response to the virus. I thought that Republican politicians were going to stand up for their constituents in the midst of a national crisis. I was wrong.

    It’s endlessly depressing to see that Trump is so disinterested in doing the absolute minimum to help this country. In fact, he seems dead set on sabotaging our national response: slowing down testing, sabotaging independent testing efforts, interfering with state’s procurement of PPE, mocking doctors for raising the alarm, spreading disinformation, slandering people for taking basic precautions, and threatening states and organizations for prioritizing public health.

  9. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    9. July 2020 at 16:10

    Scott Sumner: yes, but I am referring to Trump the President, not Trump the Reality TV Show Host.

    Trump the President has always wanted a more expansionary monetary policy, and that has been entirely consistent with your views.

    There are plenty of reasons not to want Trump as President; but on monetary policy he has been pretty good. in fact, on monetary policy, President Trump and Scott Sumner are but peas in a pod.

  10. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    9. July 2020 at 16:54

    BTW, from CNBC:

    “Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, laying out his plans for an economic recovery Thursday, said President Donald Trump is too focused on the stock market during the coronavirus pandemic.

    The former vice president, speaking at an event in Pennsylvania, said he wanted to end the ‘era of shareholder capitalism.'”


    OK, let us end the era of “shareholder capitalism.”

    So….this is better than Trump? We end “shareholder capitalism” and get back into Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan? (Oh, and maybe Pakistan and Iran too).

    Good luck, everybody.

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