Opinion: Fed nominee Stephen Moore’s only qualification is saying what his GOP masters want to hear

A thoroughly partisan hack, Moore has no consistent economic beliefs or theories

 (Project Syndicate) – In December 2015, the right-wing commentator Stephen Moore, President Donald Trump’s pick to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, savagely attacked then-Fed Chair Janet Yellen and her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, for maintaining loose monetary policies in the years following the Great Recession.

According to Moore, who is not a Ph.D. economist, investors had “become hyper-dependent” on the Fed’s “zero-interest-rate policy … just as an addict craves crack cocaine.” This “money creation,” he surmised, had yielded “nada” in terms of “helping juice the economy, creating jobs, or giving the American worker a pay raise.”

Worse, the United States had already “tried this before — twice — and both times the story ended badly with a pop of the bubble … in 1999-2000 and … in 2008-09.” The lesson, he concluded, is that, “Micromanaging the economy through the lever of money creation at the grand fiefdom within the Fed doesn’t work.”

Or does it? Moore himself is probably not the most reliable judge.

On Dec. 26, 2018, he savagely attacked Yellen’s successor, Jerome Powell, for raising interest rates to unwind the very approach that he had condemned three years earlier. “If you cut engine power too far on a jetliner,” he warned, “it will stall and drop out of the sky.”

Moore complained that, after having “risen by 382 points on hopes that the Fed would listen to Trump and stop cutting power,” the Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, -0.11%   had “plunged by 895 points” on the news of another interest-rate hike. This, he concluded, was evidence that “the Fed’s monetary policy has come unhinged.”

Moore called on Powell to “do the honorable thing … and resign.” But, failing that, he hoped that Trump would simply fire the Fed chair. “The law says he can replace the Federal Reserve chairman for cause,” Moore observed in an interview that same week. “Well, the cause is that he’s wrecking our economy.”

.. Of course, a less-generous interpretation is that Moore has not changed his view of the economy, and was acting in bad faith during the years of the Obama administration. Or, less likely, he is acting in bad faith now, after having conducted himself in an honest manner up until 2016.

As it happens, none of these interpretations applies, because they are all predicated on the false assumption that Moore actually has an informed perspective of the economy. To my mind, he does not.

True, Moore has consistently advocated low government spending and opposed progressive taxation. He might even support more open immigration policies, as one would expect from a self-proclaimed free-market conservative. Then again, his views may have changed since he started advising Trump in 2016. After all, he already seems to have abandoned his previous commitment to free trade.

That comes as no surprise. Throughout his career as a partisan talking head, Moore’s economic analysis has never had any basis in empirical reality. To the contrary, he has repeatedly shown that he will say whatever needs to be said to please his political master.

Needless to say, Moore is wholly unfit to serve in the office to which he is being nominated. He has absolutely no business overseeing U.S. monetary policy. The same is true of any president who would appoint him and any senator who would vote to confirm him.

The issue that is — unfortunately — uniting Americans on the left and the right

Some of the tenured class that sets the intellectual tone of the left concluded long ago that America was built by oppression, is sustained by white privilege and requires the cleansing purity of social revolution (however that is defined). In this story, capitalism accumulates inequities that will eventually lead the rich to eat the poor. The American Dream is an exploitative myth. Change will come only through a coalition of the aggrieved. And those who are not permanently enraged are not paying proper attention.

.. It is unrecognizable to people — mostly white people — who regard mid-20th-century America as a social and economic ideal. The country has been fundamentally altered by multiculturalism and political correctness. It has been ruined by secularism and moral relativism. America, says the Rev. Franklin Graham, is “on the verge of total moral and spiritual collapse.” And those who are not permanently offended are not paying proper attention.
.. a poll taken last year found that 72 percent of Donald Trump supporters believe American society and its way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s. And the most pessimistic and discontented lot of all was white evangelical Protestants. Almost three-quarters believed the past 70 years to be a period of social decline.
Those of us who remember politics in the Reagan era have a mental habit of regarding conservatism as more optimistic about the American experiment and liberalism as more discontented.
.. They are united in their belief that the United States is dominated by corrupt, self-serving elites. They are united in their call for radical rather than incremental change. While disagreeing deeply about the cause, they see America as careening off course.
.. What group believes that American society has gotten better since the 1950s? About 60 percent of African Americans and Hispanics.
.. Many conservatives have failed to appreciate the mixed legacy of modernity. In recent decades, the United States has seen declining community and family cohesion, and what former U.S. surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy calls “a loneliness epidemic.” “We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization,” he says, “yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”
.. elevate and praise American ideals while courageously applying them to our social inconsistencies and hypocrisies.
.. And this might be matched with a spirit of gratitude — for a country capable of shame and change, and better than its grievances.

Bannon Firing Proves Trump is Winging It

He risks having no base from which to build, no prospect for governance.

In the wake of Stephen Bannon’s firing, it has become almost inconceivable that President Trump can avoid a one-term fate. This isn’t because he sacked Bannon but because of what that action tells us about his leadership. In celebrating Bannon’s dismissal, The Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial: “Trump can’t govern with a Breitbart coalition. Does he see that?” True enough. But he also can’t govern without the Breitbart constituency—his core constituency—in his coalition. The bigger question is: Does he see that?

It’s beginning to appear that Trump doesn’t see much of anything with precision or clarity when it comes to the fundamental question of how to govern based on how he campaigned. He is merely a battery of impulses, devoid of any philosophical coherence or intellectual consistency.

Indeed, it’s difficult to recall any president of recent memory who was so clearly winging it in the Oval Office. Think of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, both of whom made huge mistakes that cost them the White House. But both knew precisely what they wanted to accomplish and how to go about accomplishing it.

.. Further, that agenda had to give a majority of Americans a sense that

  • the economy was sound and growing,
  • that unnecessary foreign wars would be avoided,
  • that domestic tranquility would prevail,
  • that the mass immigration of recent years would be curtailed,
  • that the health care mess would be fixed, and that
  • infrastructure needs would be addressed.

Consider some of the elements of conventional wisdom that he smashed during the campaign.

  • Immigration
  • Foreign Policy
  • Trade

The important point about these issues is that they all cut across partisan lines. That’s what allowed Trump to forge a nontraditional coalition that provided him a slim margin of victory—but only in the Electoral College. His challenge was to turn this electoral coalition into a governing one.

.. What we see in these defeats and stalled initiatives is an incapacity on the part of the president to nudge and herd legislators, to mold voter sentiment into waves of political energy, to fashion a dialectic of political action, or to offer a coherent vision of the state of the country and where he wishes to take it. Everything is ad hoc. No major action seems related to any other action. In a job that calls for a political chess master, Trump displays hardly sufficient skills and attentiveness for a game of political checkers. 

.. It’s telling, but not surprising, that Trump couldn’t manage his White House staff in such a way as to maintain a secure place on the team for the man most responsible for charting his path to the White House. This isn’t to say that Bannon should have been given outsized influence within West Wing councils, merely that his voice needed to be heard and his connection to Trump’s core constituency respected.

But that’s not the way Trump operates—another sign of a man who, over his head at the top of the global power structure, is winging it.

The Non-Transformation of Donald J. Trump

It’s astonishing, isn’t it, how suddenly Donald J. Trump is being viewed, in certain precincts, as—what’s the word?—yes, “Presidential,” and all it took was for him to issue an order to launch fifty-nine cruise missiles

.. Laura Ingraham tweeted, “Missiles flying. Rubio’s happy. McCain ecstatic. Hillary’s on board. A complete policy change in 48 hrs.”), there was wide approval from the foreign-policy establishment. The former Secretary of State John Kerry was said to be “absolutely supportive” and “gratified to see that it happened quickly,” and there’s been non-stop gushing within the Trumpian orbit. Kellyanne Conway, gusher-in-chief and Presidential counsellor, spoke about “our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.

.. For a television performer, television appearances matter a lot.

.. when Trump started getting intelligence briefings, his briefers were advised that he was “a visual and auditory learner”—in other words, that he should deal with as few words as possible and, instead, get “more graphics and pictures.”

.. preference for pictures over words explains, as Trump might phrase it, so much, so very, very much.

.. “We rushed into Korea with no advance planning, and we stumbled into the ground war in Vietnam with uncertain footing. In neither case did we have any fully thought-out ideas concerning our objectives or the means we would be willing to expend to attain them. As each situation arose we extemporized, unsure what the next step would be, until we were far more committed than we had expected to be.” Our best soldiers never forget that sort of lesson.

.. What’s most worrisome about Trump is what’s been worrisome all along: that he doesn’t think through the consequences of what he says and does, and that he acts without a glimmer of consistency, or guiding principle; he’s a man of constant surprise. In that way, Trump is not unlike another erratic world figure, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who also seems capable of acting in extremes, without warning, at any time, and at any level of incitement.

Clear, Clarify, Hold, Build

H.R. McMaster can put counterinsurgency tactics to good use in the White House.

 Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said during a visit to Mexico that there would be “no, repeat, no, use of military force in immigration operations. None.” This was a few hours after Mr. Trump had described his deportation policy as “a military operation.” A few days earlier, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley insisted “we absolutely support a two-state solution” for Israelis and Palestinians, just a day after the president said he was agnostic on the subject.Before that, it was Mike Pence affirming the centrality of NATO, after his boss had called it obsolete. And Jim Mattis, promising Iraqis that the administration does not intend to take their oil, despite the countless times Mr. Trump has lamented our failure to do so. And Mike Pompeo reiterating that, yes, it was Russia that was behind the DNC leaks, and not, as Mr. Trump speculated last year, a 400-pound man in New Jersey.
 Apologists for the administration say all this is evidence of an open-minded president cultivating a team of rivals. Whatever. As Alexander Hamilton noted in the Federalist Papers, “unity of the Executive” is essential to effective government. What we have in this administration is incoherence verging on chaos.