Trumponomics: focusing on weird things with a small staff

From The Economist a few weeks back:

The real difference is that Trumponomics (unlike, say, Reaganomics) is not an economic doctrine at all. It is best seen as a set of proposals put together by businessmen courtiers for their king. Mr Trump has listened to scores of executives, but there are barely any economists in the White House. His approach to the economy is born of a mindset where deals have winners and losers and where canny negotiators confound abstract principles. Call it boardroom capitalism.

And, on trade, where history points towards a more open approach being successful:

Contrary to the Trump team’s assertions, there is little evidence that either the global trading system or individual trade deals have been systematically biased against America. Instead, America’s trade deficit—Mr Trump’s main gauge of the unfairness of trade deals—is better understood as the gap between how much Americans save and how much they invest. The fine print of trade deals is all but irrelevant. Textbooks predict that Mr Trump’s plans to boost domestic investment will probably lead to larger trade deficits, as it did in the Reagan boom of the 1980s. If so, Mr Trump will either need to abandon his measure of fair trade or, more damagingly, try to curb deficits by using protectionist tariffs that will hurt growth and sow mistrust around the world.

Meanwhile, by the numbers, the focus is obviously on the wrong sectors for juicing:

A deeper problem is that Trumponomics draws on a blinkered view of America’s economy. Mr Trump and his advisers are obsessed with the effect of trade on manufacturing jobs, even though manufacturing employs only 8.5% of America’s workers and accounts for only 12% of GDP. Service industries barely seem to register. This blinds Trumponomics to today’s biggest economic worry: the turbulence being created by new technologies. Yet technology, not trade, is ravaging American retailing, an industry that employs more people than manufacturing. And economic nationalism will speed automation: firms unable to outsource jobs to Mexico will stay competitive by investing in machines at home. Productivity and profits may rise, but this may not help the less-skilled factory workers who Mr Trump claims are his priority.

Check out the rest: “Courting trouble”.

“[E]verybody likes growth in someone else’s backyard”

So, long run growth comes from one thing, and one thing only: Productivity. New and better ways of doing things. New and better products, new and better companies. It doesn’t come from 90% of the things that we talk about. So, the Federal Reserve, stimulus programs, even anti-inequality programs–over 10-20 years, it’s about productivity. Our ancestors may have, you know, you might have had a grandparent who dug coal with a pickaxe; and how did you get so much richer? Not by your union getting him higher wages and he still digs coal with a pickaxe at 20 cents an hour, not 10 cents. It’s because one guy left and he uses a bulldozer. Right? Growth comes from productivity. And productivity–everybody likes growth in someone else’s backyard. Productivity comes from new companies, doing things new ways, and making life very uncomfortable for everybody else. Uber is the great example. Uber is–that’s a great productivity enhancement. It’s putting a lot of people to work who otherwise couldn’t go to work. And the taxi companies hate it. And most of economic regulation is designed to stop growth. It’s designed to protect the old ways of doing things. So, what we need for growth-oriented policies is exactly that kind of innovation, that kind of new companies coming in an upending the status quo, that make everybody uncomfortable and run to their politician to say, ‘You’ve got to stop this.’

I don’t know the politics of economics enough to figure out if that’s a dick thing to say or not, but it sure makes grim-sense. The rest of the interview has some fun mental gymnastics and suave “turns out”’ing.

(And check out the show notes! That’s some intimidating work.)

Source: “EconTalk: John Cochrane on Economic Growth and Changing the Policy Debate”

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Rational anaysis is hard to find in real life:

But in Elkhart, people have jobs they didn’t have six years ago, and they’re working more hours. Their homes are worth more than they were before Obama took office, on average, and their paychecks are fatter than they used to be. Yet Obama is, and will likely remain, the president who didn’t do anything right.

Link

C.R.E.A.M. on top!

From 2009 to 2012, the top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while the bottom 99% incomes grew a mere 0.4%, according to an updated study by University of California Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.

That means the top 1% took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans — one of the highest levels since 1913 when the modern federal income tax started, the economists note. More than that, the top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while the bottom 99% incomes have barely started to recover.

C.R.E.A.M. on top!

When all that matters is price, petty rip-offs abound

Once, market forces and the power of brands and reputation provided reassurance. Many businesses took a long-term view and valued their customers’ loyalty. But a more opportunistic outlook on the part of big companies means that, in many markets, reputations have fallen so low that consumers expect nothing and get little. All the petty frauds I have described were perpetrated by well known companies.

In these circumstances, competition is no longer the answer to the problem of tariff complexity but a means of spreading the practice of petty fraud. The company that offers a fair price loses business to the company that provides the misleading tariff.

When all that matters is price, petty rip-offs abound