I think there is a strong possibility that Donald Trump will be a one-term President—provided there are still free and fair elections in 2020.
I think that for the same reasons I thought Hillary Clinton might be a one-term President. I believe there will be another recession, as serious as the last, during the next four years, and I think Trump will be even less able to cope with it than Clinton.
He campaigned as a populist champion of the common people against the elite. But he spent his life among the elite, and his business history shows that he is only tough with those with less wealth and power than he has.
Trump kicks downward. He doesn’t punch upward.
His transition team is drawn from K street lobbyists. His preference is to appoint from the private sector, not from government or academia.
His likely choice for Secretary of the Treasury is Steven Mnuchin, his campaign finance chairman. Mnuchin is CEO of an investment firm called Dune Capital Management, but, according to POLITICO, he worked 17 years for Goldman Sachs, whose subprime mortgage manipulations were a big contributor to the last recession.
The problem is that, in a recession, what makes sense for a business owner doesn’t make sense for a President. A business owner’s instinct in tough times is to cut back. That is rational behavior for the individual, but cutting back means less money in circulation, less economic activity and a worse recession.
Hillary Clinton was the preferred candidate of Wall Street. If she were President during the next recession, we could expect a bailout of Wall Street, without any meaningful action to prevent future abuses, just like the Obama administration after the 2008 recession.
I don’t think that makes Trump the anti-Wall Street candidate. I think that, instead, he would try to show Wall Street executives that he can be trusted to represent their interests.
Stock market averages dropped whenever the election campaign went in his favor, and they dropped drastically on his victory. All Presidents care more than they should about stock market averages, and I think this will be especially true of Trump. Restoring market “confidence” will be a high priority for him and his team.
The difference between Trump and Clinton is that he is an economic nationalist and she is a supporter of globalization. Given the choice, I pick nationalism.
I don’t think a trade war will be beneficial to the United States, but I do believe reserving crucial decisions to national governments, which are subject to democratic control, rather than international organizations and corporations, which are not.
Trump opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and similar trade agreements.
These agreements would tie any government’s hands in trying to cope with a serious recession. Special help given to American industry could be challenged by foreign companies on the grounds that it tilts the playing field and deprives them of expected profits.
All in all, though, he seems even less likely to be able to cope with a serious economic crisis than Clinton would have been. This at least opens up the possibility of a progressive alternative—a large public works program, a better social safety net and accountability for bankers and CEOs.
The thing about Trump is that his actions are unpredictable. I think I can make an accurate guess as to what Clinton would have done. Her views and actions as Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and informal adviser to her husband are consistent and a good guide to her likely future behavior.
I am not at all sure what Trump will do. Maybe he will surprise me in a good way, but I doubt it.
Clinton was the devil I knew. Trump is the devil I don’t know.
The Day After by Charles Stross for Charlie’s Diary.
Donald Trump Recruits Corporate Lobbyists to Select His Future Administration by Lee Fang for The Intercept.
Meet Trump’s Cabinet-in-Waiting by Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia for POLITICO.
A Trump Presidency: Bracing for the Unknown by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.
Illustration: Boing Boing.