Stockman to Trump: It's the Economy, Stupid
In a recent appearance on CNN, David Stockman suggested that Trump might best spend some time actually addressing economic issues instead of the administration's travel ban for immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, which Stockman called "a giant misfire."
Pointing out that Americans are far, far more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist, Stockman asserted that it was really Trump's opposition to Obamacare and other government regulation that got him elected. Employing the 1992 Clinton Campaign motto of "it's the economy, stupid," Stockman noted "Trump was elected because flyover America is hurting economically. The voters of Racine, Wisconsin and Johnstown, Pennsylvania are imperiled not because of some refugees, they're imperiled because their jobs have all been disappearing for decades. The problem is far more the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, the bubbles they're creating on Wall Street..."
Stockman went on suggest that the Trump Administration is showing decreased interest in "draining the swamp" employing a phrase Trump used when he claimed he would greatly cut federal power in Washington. Instead of doing that, Stockman contends, Trump is merely filling the swamp with " "other creatures that will build up homeland security, border control, more money for defense, more money for spying and national security."
Stockman might also have pointed out that the travel ban itself illustrates how the ban has nothing to do with national security given that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not on the list of blocked countries, even though Saudi Arabia and Egypt were the two countries most closely linked ot 9/11. Moreover, the perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino shootings had been radicalized in Saudi Arabia and traveled there before the killings. Indeed, Trump's list seems to be more accurately described as a list of Saudi enemies, including Saudi Arabia's most bitter enemies Iran and Syria. Also on the list is Yemen, which is currently subject to a vicious war and starvation campaign launched by Saudi Arabia's dictators.
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Stockman wasn't alone in noticing the Trump Administration's lack of enthusiasm for tackling any meaningful economic issues. Jack Perry writes at LewRockwell.com:
I gave Trump the benefit of the doubt and said, okay, let’s see what he will do. But what I’ve seen so far is one endless distraction of the type the Democrats usually engage in. That being, pick some lightning rod topic, create a massive kerfuffle over it, and then cling to it tightly like a toddler with a teddy bear. That way, the distraction keeps everyone focused on it instead of, hey, you’re not doing the big things you said you were going to do. For example, how much time and money has now been wasted over this travel ban? And while that’s going on, Obamacare is not being repealed. Maybe Trump has already forgotten about it and now is obsessed with this travel ban thing. That leads me to believe this has become a war of ego for him...
This is not to say that I believe the government can “fix” the economy or “create” jobs. In fact, I laugh at the notion. But the fact is, and Democrats even admit, these were the biggest reasons people voted for Trump... What we are seeing right now is what will go on for the entire term. Endless wrangling, debate, and fuss over issues that don’t really affect a majority of people here.
Meanwhile, Trump's supposed agenda item of repealing Obamacare continues to lose momentum and appears to be on the back burner with the president saying little on the matter in recent weeks. Trump is already pushing the timeframe back to 2018.
Rather than focus on this difficult task, however, the Trump Administration has signaled it plans to keep burning political capital and precious time and energy on fighting for its travel ban all the way to the Supreme Court.
One thing we do know about Trump's economic policy is that he plans to massively increase government spending, as with repeated promises to shower a variety of government agencies with more tax money for military operations, even going so far as the absurdly call the spending of taxpayer funds an "investment." These funds will certainly be needed, however, since the Trump Administration has already been spending immense amounts of cash in Eastern Europe as most recently made clear by a new NATO buildup in the Baltic states.
Trump's other priority, it seems, is to raise taxes on Americans by increasing taxes on imports, thus increasing the cost of living and costs for domestic producers and employers. This stems from what Jeff Deist calls Trump's "fetish for exports over imports" but which has nothing at all to do with raising American living standards.
When will we begin to see an emphasis on freeing up the economy coming out of the White House? If past experience with previous Republican administrations is any indicator, we'll be waiting a long time.
Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.