Trump won the 2016 US presidency election based on the slogan, ‘make America great again’, which had resonated with a grassroot movement. Trump's victory gave him a mandate to deliver his campaign promises despite of his battle with the mainstream media during and after his presidential campaign. The media and the left have been critical to Trump's Administration since his inauguration. Negative reports about his transition team, cabinet appointees, executive orders and policy initiatives appeared daily. Trump's impulsive tweets, protocol defiant manners, eagerness in exercising executive authority and accusation about biased media created lots of sensational news and mutual hostility. To this day, Trump is still using the term, fake news media, to fight a continuous assault from the media on his Administration and his policies as if his presidential campaign is still going on.
In this column, we have objectively discussed the Trump phenomenon, correctly hinted Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton, made detailed observations on Trump's first one hundred days in the White House and we shall continue to monitor and offer suggestions from a patriotic citizen's point of view. Today, Trump faces a 'Russian Gate' and a 'Comey Firing' investigation while confronted by the nuclear threat from North Korea and the deployment of military actions in Syria. Even though defending his actions and credibility and handling foreign affairs are important daily activities on Trump's agenda, the key domestic issues are much more on American citizens' mind especially on those who put Trump in the White House.
Thus we entitled today's column, Can Trumponomics - Fair Trade, Tax Cut and De-Regulation Make America Great Again? A question may remain for years to come. However, it is timely to start the discussion on the title subject since The Economist (TE) has just conducted a 'free flow' interview with Trump (with Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury and Ms Hope Hicks, Strategic Communications Director, present) at the White House on May 4, 2017 on economic issues. The interview was a candid and open Q&A on several issues which deserve our comments. Our comments are far more positive than the post-interview editorial article (Why Trumponomics Won’t Make America Great Again, May 13, 2017, in the Leader section of the print edition of TE). This post-interview article seized the opportunity to trash Trumponomics by saying that it is wrong, it won't work, it creates dangers, and it is a poor recipe for long-term prosperity, producing more deficits, more inequality and more anger in Americans as if one interview would cast the fate of American economy.
The vast number of comments appeared after the interview and the editorial in TE were understandably anti-Trump but still to my surprise, they were so one-sided, full of criticism, sarcasm and intellectual elitists’ views, except one asking: why there isn't any Trump supporter. However, some criticisms were valid on Trump's poor verbal English and lack of vocabulary, adequacy in expressing comprehensive answers to the weighty questions. But the blame should be shared by the interviewer and the editor (perhaps, Ms Hicks as well) since they made no attempt to clarify Trump's words during the interview nor through the 'light edit' as if keeping a rambling dialogue is the virtue of an interview. The transcript of the interview with ‘light editing' and the editorial article were available on economist.com along with references (essays negative on Trump and his policies) and many deplorable reader comments. Only one fair sensible reader comment noted was that “numbers (referring to 3% economic growth) are more important than words”.
Actually, it is too early to cast judgment on Trumponomics. We will comb Trump's candid words to find clues and indication whether he is shaping a Trumponomics or just dealing with a set of proposals or business wishlist as the TE article claimed. The interviewer's first question was: What is Trumponomics and how does it differ from Republican economics? This is a broad and diffused question (the TE interviewer was not even primed adequately on Reaganomics as commented by a reader) begging for an oratorical answer. Trump is no great orator but his answer was fair. He focused on trade and wanted free trade but emphasized fair and reciprocal. He cited NAFTA, he wanted to terminate it that prompted Mexico and Canada Prime Ministers to call him 10 minutes apart. So renegotiation of NAFTA would take place if Congress would approve a fast track for the Administration to renegotiate the NAFTA treaty by a new negotiator (Robert Lighthizer). Trump delivered his answer in his usual jumpy and scattered manner and the interviewer let the interview run its rambling course, from reducing trade deficit to reciprocal taxes to China and Xi Jin Ping to illegal immigrants before getting to tax cut to get company investment back to the United States and consequences of bigger deficits and sustainability of faster growth. From the questions raised and the answers flowed, we may conclude that the interviewer did not do his homework to prepare a more productive and informative interview.
After carefully reviewing the entire interview transcript, we may conclude a number of meaningful points from Trump’s statements even though they don’t necessarily support a clear thesis of Trumponomics. First, Trump is dead serious being patriotic (American First) to deal with trade issues. He is also serious believing in negotiation and his experiences with negotiation. He felt confident in getting Enrique Pena Nieto (PM of Mexico) and Justin Trudeau (PM of Canada) to call him to renegotiate NAFTA, likely reaching a more favorable compromise. In contrast to his threat to terminate NAFTA, his praise for Xi Jin Ping (“He is a great guy!” and “We like each other a lot.”) and China was not entirely a psychological technique prior to trade negotiation with China or making deals with North Korea counting on China’s help. More likely, Trump is showing a genuine respect for Xi as Trump proudly stated that his 10 minutes meeting with Xi alone at Mar-a-Lago turned into 3 hours long and another of his 10 minutes meeting with Xi turned into a 40 person meeting. Probably, Xi’s knowledge on these issues earned Trump’s respect. If Trump and Xi indeed liked each other a lot, it would be a good thing for the world economy.
Trump is equally serious about stopping corporations from going abroad and bringing companies especially manufacturing back to the U.S. using tax-cut, waiver of foreign profit repatriation tax, de-regulation or tax penalty whatever works. He coined the phrase “Prime the Pump” to stimulate economic growth and to expect a 3% GDP increase. Whether the projection for shorter fast growth or the long term $2 trillion revenue over ten years is accurate or not, his direction is correct that perhaps explains the Wall Street’s positive reaction. Everyone knows tax reform is a tough nut to crack, so does Trump and his advisors. So it is only fair to allow his Administration “contemplating”, a word used in the interview. We should be more concerned about philosophies, principles and directions Trumponomics adheres to at this point than picking every proposal apart and declaring death sentence before they begin. TE’s Trumponomics interview is really disappointing, wasting an opportunity to be constructive and productive. The TE Q&A process and the editorial afterwards should have been prepared to explore and construct a positive picture of Trumponomics instead of trashing it before anyone (Trump team and economists) could contemplate a clear picture of it.
So, to the title question, the answer at this point should be, Trumponomics may have a chance to make America great again, if more positive thinking and energy are applied to it.