According to CNBS’s Steve Liesman, economists across the country are beginning to worry that Trump isn’t interested in their help at all. According to his report, the Trump Transition team has only named one academic economist to the administration.
Defining an “academic economist” as one who has a Ph.D. and is employed at an institution of higher learning with peer-reviewed research papers, Liesman explains:
“So far, just one academic economic has been named to the administration. Peter Navarro, the University of California Irvine economics professor, will head a newly created White House National Trade Council.”
By contrast, President Obama, whose administration oversaw the longest period of job-growth in recorded American economic history, had a very different approach after his election. In November of 2008, Obama’s transition aides announced an economic team that included formidable candidates as economic experts.
Obama’s economic team included former New York Fed President Timothy Geither as Treasury Secretary, Christina Romer as head of the CEA and Larry Summers to head the National Economic Council. Both Romer and Summers are considered highly respected academic economists.
Liesman’s report goes on explain that Trump is in particular need of official economic advice after making a huge blunder during Wednesday’s press conference:
“Underscoring the need was Trump’s colossal economic error at his press conference. He wrongly said that 96 million Americans are out of the labor force and looking for work.”
This number is inaccurate, reflecting the number of people that are 16 and older and not employed. However, only 5.4 million of those say they are looking for the jobs. The other 91 million are unable to work due to sickness, school or being retired.
In lieu of academic economists, Trump has named Gary Cohn as the National Economic Council and Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of Treasury. Gary Cohn was formerly second-in-command at Goldman Sachs and Mnuchin was a former Goldman partner and mortgage trader.
Linesman admits that “it may be that the Trump administration simply hasn’t gotten around to finding or naming its economists”.
However, that isn’t keeping the experts from worrying. Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School and former head of Council of Economic Advisors for the Bush administration, points out: “I think the president can get any economist he wants.”
He also talks about the importance of having academic economists to talk through the relationships between issues of policy, shocks, deficits, etc. “Math has a habit of not going away”, Hubbard says.
So far, it looks like Trump is lining his economic team with high-level finance people who have less interest in the economic needs of ordinary Americans, and more interest in the success of often-destructive institutions like Goldman Sachs