Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Trump is not an economist but his narcissism can surely trash the economy

Trump readily accepted credit (falsely) for the run-up in stock prices during his two years in office. The run-up has now become a down-turn that wiped out any gains during the past year. But he is playing his usual script. He’s looking for someone else to blame and, the NY Times reports, the Stock Market Rout Has Trump Fixated on Fed Chair Powell.

WASHINGTON — President Trump has unabashedly hitched his political fortunes to a rising stock market. Now, with stock prices in retreat, he has become increasingly fixated on the idea that one man is to blame for the recent rout: Jerome H. Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

After the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday, the fifth consecutive quarterly increase, Mr. Trump fretted to aides that Mr. Powell would “turn me into Hoover,” a reference to the man who was president in the early years of the Great Depression.

Mr. Trump has said choosing Mr. Powell for the Fed job last year was the worst mistake of his presidency, and he has asked aides whether he has the power to fire him.

But the volatile stock market, which just posted its worst week since 2008, is falling in part because of Mr. Trump’s own policies, including an escalating trade war with China, a shutdown of the federal government and the fading effects of the $1.5 trillion tax cut Mr. Trump ushered in at the end of 2017. While the Fed’s rate increases have upset investors — who seem to have a darker view of economic growth than the central bank does — some analysts said Mr. Trump’s musings about the Fed would only exacerbate anxieties.

"If Powell gets terminated, what we’ve seen happen in the markets in the past few weeks will look like a walk in the park,” David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, said in an email on Sunday. “The dollar will go into a tailspin, and even confidence in the Treasury market will erode, especially among foreign creditors.”

Mr. Trump’s economic advisers scrambled over the weekend to reassure markets that Mr. Trump was not, in fact, planning to fire Mr. Powell. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted what he said was a quote from Mr. Trump accepting that he did not even have the power to do so.

Mr. Mnuchin has worked in recent days to obtain Mr. Trump’s assurance that he would not remove Mr. Powell, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. But that person cautioned that Mr. Trump could change his mind. The person noted Mr. Trump has a tendency to nurse grudges even when he temporarily sets a subject aside.

The take-aways, above in bold, are (1) Trump’s own actions rattled the market, (2) he could go against his economic advisors and make things worse, and (3) even if persuaded to back off, he could take action against the Fed at some later time to screw things up royally.

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