Researchers find uncertainty about economic policy is slightly higher now than during Obama’s entire tenure
During Barack Obama’s presidency, uncertainty about U.S. economic policy was much higher than it had been during the previous 25 years, according to calculations by a trio of academic economists.
You would think uncertainty would be low now, with economic expansion advanced and secure, the global economy on a stable footing, and a president in the White House focused on helping business by cutting regulation.
But it isn’t. The researchers find economic policy uncertainty is slightly higher under President Donald Trump than it was during an Obama era marked by deep recession, auto bailouts, unconventional Federal Reserve interventions into the financial system and routine brinkmanship between Democrats and Republicans on fiscal policy.
.. “Obama was president in a time when you needed extreme policy action,” said Mr. Bloom. “Trump has incredibly benign economic conditions. He should have very low levels of policy uncertainty.”
It is hard to say exactly why uncertainty is high now. Mr. Bloom said it is likely partly because of big policy changes happening in Washington—such as an aggressive new stance on trade—and partly because of the decision-making process, which he described as chaotic.
.. “It has been a gut punch to tech investors,” Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer at GBH Insights, an investment research firm, said of the Amazon and Facebook developments. “These stocks and their multiples were not factoring in increased regulation.”
.. Complicating matters, it is hard to see a comprehensive policy framework behind Mr. Trump’s interventions into the economy, making it hard to predict what might come next.
.. Some analysts have described the nation’s evolving trade approach as mercantilism, a government effort to prop up exports and restrain imports in pursuit of trade and financial surpluses. But Qualcomm, AT&T and Amazon aren’t about that. Nor is it quite industrial policy, which is government selection of certain industries over others, as Japan practiced in the 1980s and 1990s.
.. “He’s picking winners and losers,” said Matthew Slaughter, dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, who also served as an economist at the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. “But it is not obvious what the unifying strategy would be and it is not obvious what the definition of winners and losers are in these cases.”
.. “The regulatory machinery is not likely to be put into motion because the president has a grudge against Amazon,” he said.
His advice to Wall Street: “Don’t fear the Tweeter.”
In the final dash to Election Day, Trump needed a Lee Atwater type — a street fighter. But once in the White House, Bannon’s role was less clear and the president chafed at claims that Bannon controlled his administration’s agenda.
.. They care about what the president and his administration can do for them. They support Trump because he articulated and, increasingly, is enacting an agenda they believe will improve their lives and secure the future peace and prosperity of the country.
.. They will still make the case to voters for economic policies that expand the middle class, for pro-citizen immigration policy and for a foreign policy that is circumspect about foreign military engagement.
In fact, they’re rushing to jam the thing through before Doug Jones can be certified, in a stunning act of hypocrisy from the same people who demanded that Obamacare wait until Scott Brown was seated and held up a Supreme Court seat for a year.
.. the Pundit’s Fallacy: “belief that what a politician needs to do to improve his or her political standing is do what the pundit wants substantively.” I.e., “Obama can win the midterms by endorsing Bowles-Simpson,” which the vast majority of voters never heard of.
.. Today’s Republicans are apparatchiks, who have spent their whole lives inside an intellectual bubble in which cutting taxes on corporations and the rich is always objective #1.
.. Their party used to know that it won elections despite its economic program, not because of it – that the whole game was to win by playing on
- social issues,
- national security, and above all on
- racial antagonism,
then use the win to push fundamentally unpopular economic policies.
.. the GOP may also be engaged in the fallacy of points on the board thinking – I’m taking the phrase from Rahm Emanuel, who believed that Obama could gain electoral capital simply by racking up legislative victories.
The idea is that voters are impressed by your record of wins, or conversely that they’ll turn away if you don’t win enough.
“Trumpian populism remains a tantalizing promise for people who are interested in it.”
Olsen expected the tax plan to include some of Trump’s populist campaign promises — that the rich would pay more, the forgotten working class would pay less, and special interest loopholes like the carried-interest provision for hedge-fund managers would be gone.
But the tax bill ended up instead being traditionally Republican in its focus on cutting taxes for the well-to-do but barely touching the working class and not helping the middle class to a significant degree.
.. “That’s not what Trump promised,” Olsen said. “And it’s not what Trump’s voters thought they were getting.”
Whatever happened to Ivanka Trump’s child care tax credit?
One of the biggest disappointments for conservatives who believed that Trump could have offered a new, more reform-minded populist economics was the failure of the expanded child care tax credit offered by Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Marco Rubio.
It was an actual populist idea, geared to the working class, because it was refundable against payroll taxes. But not only did Republican leaders oppose it, they made sure it failed by requiring it to get 60 votes, unlike other amendments.
.. The tax bill might not be the kind of populist piece of legislation Trump promised during the campaign, but it does have a lot in it to make conservatives happy. Obamacare is unraveled; there are more tax breaks for people who home-school their kids or send them to religious schools;
.. Maybe the most important thing Trump offers his supporters isn’t economic policy or any policy at all — it’s his racially charged Twitter feed and the cultural grievances it directs at immigrants, Muslims and millionaire black athletes.
Sure, Trump’s followers like the idea of having fewer tax brackets, said conservative Ben Domenech, publisher of TheFederalist.com, but, “What gets them riled up and active is the embrace of the culture-war issues — that Trump has shown himself perfectly happy to fight in a way that Republicans in a lot of other positions have been unwilling to traditionally.”
His tax bill is much more tilted to the wealthy than the tax bills of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. And his white-identity politics is much more raw and more central to his persona.
It’s as if the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and the wealthy get the policy, while Trump’s blue-collar base gets the Twitter feed.