The Guardian: America's CEO Bias
....thoughts?Few campaign pledges are better signals of economic incompetence than: “I’ll run Washington like I run my own business.” Every election year, politicians get elected to national offices to oversee federal budgets, Federal Reserve nominations and international trade treaties, based on their experience managing local car dealerships, pest control companies and baseball teams. It’s a tribute to American voters’ eternal optimism that we even vote for business owners who are not actually any good at running their own businesses.
So strong is our faith in the CEO-as-savior that Carly Fiorina – who oversaw 30,000 layoffs in a disastrous merger – could run, with a straight face, as a jobs candidate. Now, the CEO who beat her for the Republican nomination, a man who literally fires people on TV for entertainment, has taken up that mantle. And it’s working. The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows Trump closing the gap behind Clinton, and the area in which he leads her, by double digits, is jobs and the economy.
“I will be the greatest jobs president God has ever created,” Trump has promised, against all evidence to the contrary: four bankruptcies, a trail of failed business ventures (a university called a “fraud”, an airline run into the ground, a steak company that “sold almost no steaks”, according to business partner Jerry Levin), and a pile of unpaid bills, including to his own employees.
And Trump’s policy platform, insofar as his stream-of-consciousness mélange of vague promises and threats can be called a platform, has little basis in either sound business practice or economic reality.
His trade policy is to start a trade war with China and provoke retaliatory tariffs that would collapse US exports and start a recession. His strategy for avoiding a US debt default is to print more money. And in any case, he sees economic disaster as a business opportunity: “I would borrow knowing if the economy collapsed you could make a deal,” he told CNBC. “I’m the king of debt. I love debt,” he told CNN.
Clinton’s campaign is understandably perplexed as to how someone who is cheering for the apocalypse gets to be the jobs candidate. After all, politicians in other countries don’t get this kind of pass.
When Venezuela appoints an economics minister who doesn’t believe in inflation, he is roundly mocked in the financial press. When a Bolivian ex-president runs for office as the “crisis candidate”, saying he is best equipped to handle a financial crisis because he caused one the last time, he gets ridiculed in two movies. Trump would deliberately steer the world’s largest economy into an iceberg, and half the country says they trust he can make a deal with the iceberg.
Granted, Clinton has image problems; half the country says they wouldn’t trust anything she says no matter what. And on jobs, she has a flimsy record, given the offices she’s held: you can’t create many jobs as a first lady, senator or secretary of state.
Her forays into economic issues haven’t inspired confidence: stumping for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal as secretary of state, then coming out against it as a candidate; telling an Ohio town hall that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”. The latter, much quoted statement was part of a larger point about inevitable dislocations that come with a shift away from a fossil fuel economy, and the need for the government to manage those dislocations by investing in job training, infrastructure, small business loans and pensions.
Those statements may be objectively true and more rooted in reality, but they don’t go down easy, even from the mouth of someone more polished, consistent and sympathetic than Clinton. Anyone who promises the world, even if that world isn’t particularly believable, sounds better than the one who says that there are tradeoffs to any policy, and not everyone comes out ahead.
It’s a peculiarity of US politics that we trust those to govern who are the most hostile to the idea of governing. If ineptitude is a virtue, Trump’s business record proves him more than qualified. There’s something very American about the fact that the only self-styled populist candidate left in the race is a billionaire real estate developer from New York City, a man with a string of financial and personal liabilities who can sell them, like the best scam artist, as an asset.