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Kudlow And Trump's Economic Message


There are conflicting reports about who may be the next person to leave the Trump administration, but we are sure as we can be about a high-profile arrival. Larry Kudlow will be the new head of the National Economic Council. This is a critical role in developing American economic policy. The person in that job is supposed to be an honest broker and tee up many points of view for the president to consider. And let's turn now to Adam Davidson, who's a staff writer for The New Yorker who covers economics, also a well-known voice on NPR's air. Adam Davidson, nice to talk to you again.

ADAM DAVIDSON: Yeah. Hey, David. Great to hear from you.

GREENE: Yeah. Well, let's talk a little bit about Kudlow. I mean, I know he served in the Reagan administration. He's sort of known as a supply-sider when it comes to economics. So, I mean, I guess one big question - do he and Donald Trump see eye-to-eye on the economy?

DAVIDSON: Oh, absolutely not. I think they have fundamentally different views of how the economy works.


DAVIDSON: Kudlow is an interesting character. I mean, he really developed a very firm set of ideas very early and has not changed them at all even when the facts on the ground - you know, recessions, deep financial crises, a general lack of wage growth for the middle class - have proved him wrong, at least in the eyes of many others. He has stuck to a very narrow set of prescriptions for the economy. No matter what's going on - cut taxes, lower regulation. Now, Donald Trump, of course, likes that.

GREENE: He likes those two things, yeah.

DAVIDSON: Yeah, those two things he likes. But Kudlow is very much, in Donald Trump's horrible phrase, a globalist. He believes that the best approach to the U.S. is to be extremely open to the world to trade as freely as possible, that global trade is a - is not a zero-sum game where one side wins and the other side loses.

GREENE: So no fan of tariffs, as we've been hearing - I mean, the president has proposed some that he has already spoken out against. So what is that relationship going to be like if that's going to be - tariffs are going to be in the news in coming weeks and months?

DAVIDSON: This is going to be very interesting to watch because Kudlow, just two weeks ago, wrote a column in The National Review gently - very respectfully and gently telling Donald Trump, you are wrong about tariffs. Tariffs are disastrous. They're what we do to North Korea and call them sanctions. And his job is going to be to implement Trump's tariffs. It's going to be a grim, grim job. He's going to be spending much of his time on the phone with - and in person meeting with trade ministers from other countries and arguing and representing this pro-tariff Trump view. And Kudlow, you know, this is a big personality. This is a famous guy. I don't see him enjoying the role of suppressing his lifelong beliefs in favor of Trump. I expect this one to be pretty interesting to watch.

GREENE: Well, he has been slammed by critics, A, for not having any Ph.D. in economics. He's not an economist. And a lot of his critics have said that he's made these bold economic predictions in the past that just don't pan out. So given that record, what is President Trump looking for if he's bringing him in?

DAVIDSON: Yeah. A lot of people consider Kudlow the wrongest (ph) man in the field of economics, and it's a field he might not even be in. Just a delightful, amazing list of every time he's been wrong. The problem is how he's wrong. Every economic forecaster is wrong a lot. You know, it's the kind of thing where if you're right 10 or 20 percent of the time, you could consider yourself doing pretty well. It's that Kudlow has the exact same view no matter what. He sees cutting taxes as the solution and the only solution. And if there's economic growth, it's because someone at some point cut taxes. If there is economic malaise, it's because someone didn't cut taxes.

GREENE: All right, Adam, we'll sadly have to stop there. Adam Davidson from The New Yorker. Thanks a lot, Adam.

DAVIDSON: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.