Scoop on how this went down: At lunch last week, Kudlow showed Trump Stephen Moore’s op-ed in WSJ. Trump said: Why didn’t we make him Fed chair. Kudlow said you could name him to one of open seats. Trump said call him. Later Trump called Moore, too.
That’s from Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, who on Friday explained the highly scientific vetting process that went into Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Stephen Moore for a seat on the Fed Board.
This is yet another one of those times when, in order to appreciate just how surreal things are, it’s helpful to imagine for a moment that you just woke up from a three-year nap.
Donald Trump (who is the President of the United States), was having lunch with Larry Kudlow (who is Trump’s chief economic advisor), and the two of them decided to nominate Stephen Moore (someone just as cartoonish as they are) to the Fed board based on an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal.
If you’d snoozed through the entirety of this administration and thus had been spared the daily doses of insanity which have served to desensitize the rest of us, you’d doubtlessly laugh at what you’d assume was someone’s attempt at humor.
But it’s not humor – even though Moore is most assuredly a standing joke.
In fact, Moore is even more of a joke than Herman Cain, who at least has some Fed experience.
And really, the fact that we’re even referencing Herman just further underscores how off the rails things really are. Because as bewildered as our hypothetical napper would already be, that person would be even more incredulous still to learn that in addition to Moore, Trump is in fact still considering “The Herminator” for another open Fed seat.
The only thing that could make this situation any stupider is if Moore had actually advised Herman at some point. Oh, wait – he did!
If you click through there, what you’ll discover is a Fox News article that refers to Moore as “an economist.” There’s just one small problem: Moore is not, in fact, an economist.
Let me just reiterate that: Stephen Moore is not an economist.
He plays an economist on TV and he pretends to be an economist in opinion posts for various conservative media outlets, but that’s as far as it goes. So, please, stop referring to him as “an economist”, because he isn’t one.
Of course, Jerome Powell isn’t an economist either, but Stephen Moore’s “non-economist” is of an entirely different breed than Powell’s “non-economist.”
The English language isn’t a sufficient tool to convey, to the layperson, how silly this decision is and if lawmakers have any sense at all they won’t confirm Moore. This is a man who has been laughed at so many times it’s incredible he hasn’t gotten plastic surgery and gone into hiding.
Somehow – presumably because he’s been covering Moore for so long that he has the script memorized – New York Magazine‘s
I first started writing about Moore in 1997. Four years before, President Clinton had raised the top tax rate to 39.6 percent, and supply-siders had insisted this would without question cause tax revenues to drop. This prediction was a necessary corollary of supply-side economic theory, which holds that tax revenue moves in the opposite direction of the top tax rate. The prediction was spectacularly wrong — revenue not only rose, it rose much, much faster than even the most optimistic advocates of Clinton’s plan had predicted.
Most supply-siders simply ignored this fact altogether. Moore, somewhat unusually, attempted to defend the original failed prognostication. His effort was hilariously buffoonish, using a series of errors that would embarrass a high-school economics student, such as failing to correct for inflation, and combining payroll tax data with income tax data.
[Moore has] shown no intellectual growth at all. He is capable of writing entire columns that contain no true facts at all. He made so many factual errors he achieved the rare feat of being banned from the pages of a Midwestern newspaper. He has sold his policy elixir to state governments which have promptly experienced massive fiscal crises as a direct result of listening to him. He believes what he calls “the heroes of the economy: the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who innovates and creates the things we want to buy” should be lionized, and that the idea that a recession might be caused by anything other than excessively high rates on these heroes defies “common sense.” He was pulled into Trump’s orbit during the 2016 campaign and co-wrote a ludicrous hagiography of Trump and his agenda. By all appearances, Moore opposes mainstream fiscal theories because he simply doesn’t understand them.
The “Midwestern newspaper” reference there is to an episode that found Moore trying to respond to Paul Krugman who called Stephen a “charlatan” and a “crank”.
Here’s what happened next (this account is from The Columbia Journalism Review):
PRAIRIE VILLAGE, KS — “I won’t be running anything else from Stephen Moore.”
So says Miriam Pepper, editorial page editor of the Kansas City Star—and not just because she’s retiring this week. Pepper’s no-Moore stance comes after her paper discovered substantial factual errors in a recent guest op-ed by Moore, the chief economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The episode serves as a cautionary tale for editors navigating the disputes of rival policy advocates—and a case study in the delicate art of running a correction.
It all began a month ago, when the Star ran a piece by the Nobel Prize-winning economist-turned- liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, as it does regularly. The column named Moore as one of the “charlatans and cranks” who have influenced policymakers at all levels to enact low-tax, supply-side economic policies—with ruinous effects, according to Krugman. The sweeping 2013 tax cut in Kansas is only the latest example, he wrote, citing unfavorable economic and fiscal news in the Sunflower State.
After the column ran, Pepper told me, “I was contacted by Moore’s people saying they wanted to run a response.” In the interest of fairness, she agreed.
Moore, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, submitted a version of a column that originally ran in Investor’s Business Daily. Contra Krugman, the column argued that Kansas’s tax-cut experiment needed more time to work, and cited statistics to show that states “following Krugman’s (and President Barack Obama’s) economic strategy are getting clobbered by tax-cutting states.”
The Star ran Moore’s column on July 7. It wasn’t until weeks later that Pepper realized there were problems with it. The bad news came from one of her own columnists, Yael Abouhalkah, who had taken another look at Moore’s op-ed while researching an editorial he was writing, and realized that one key paragraph—the one containing the most specific data in support of Moore’s claim—didn’t check out.
Moore had written:
No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years; California, with its 13 percent tax rate, managed to lose jobs. Oops. Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. Oops.
The recurring “oops,” intended as a dig at Krugman, took on an unintended irony after Abouhalkah discovered that Moore’s numbers did not match those of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In fact, Moore later acknowledged, he was using BLS numbers not from “the last five years” but from an earlier five-year period: December 2007 to December 2012. Focusing on that period is arguably dubious, because the span captures the depths of the Great Recession and the housing crash, which hit some states harder than others—and whose impact likely would have swamped any tax-rate effect. There are other issues with the quality of Moore’s argument, too, like its glancing-at-best treatment of how factors like housing costs shape population and job growth.
And believe me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who takes Moore seriously. He is, in the simplest possible terms, a supply-side sock puppet and a bad one at that.
In September, before things started to unravel for markets, Moore wrote a ridiculous tribute to Trump for The Washington Times called “Why Trump Deserves A Nobel Prize In Economics” which includes gems like these:
But Mr. Trump is like Mohammad Ali playing rope-a-dope while George Foreman (the media) is flailing away and punching himself out.
The surging Trump economy is arguably the news story of the decade and yet it is covered, if at all, as a ho-hum yawner.
The only storyline that The New York Times could conjure up — and I’m not making this up — is that Mr. Trump is riding an Obama wave. Sure. And Tony Eason is the one responsible for Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame performances.
For the record, there are virtually no references to actual numbers or policy in the article from which those passages are pulled.
The WSJ Op-Ed that has Trump so excited about Moore is called “The Fed Is a Threat to Growth“, and it is laughably (and characteristically) simplistic. It contains obvious errors of fact including multiple references to the US being in “deflation”. Just read the following passages and try to wrap your head around the notion that they are written by someone who tries to pass himself off as an economist:
The deflation began with quarter-point interest-rate increases in September and December.
Stocks [were] pushed down by deflation. The market turbulence wasn’t a reflection of weakness in the real economy. It was all the Fed’s doing.
When the Fed finally admitted its money-tightening mistakes in late December and announced it would forgo its planned rate increases, the deflation stopped and the stock market largely recovered.
Those excerpts are indistinguishable from something a middle school student would write. The sentence structure, the tone and multiple references to “the deflation” all betray an almost childlike inability even to pretend to be an economist. That is, he clearly isn’t capable of reading real economists and parroting their cadence. Tracing paper, it seems, would be a challenge for Stephen.
Moore also writes for Investors Business Daily (the market equivalent of a self-lubricating catheter commercial). In a “column” published late last year which carried the “subtle” headline “Fire The Fed’s Powell“, a completely serious Stephen wrote the following:
In one of the most remarkable Abbott and Costello routines in modern times, the economic wizards at the Fed again raised interest rates the week before Christmas. Their crackerjack logic for doing so is to steer America on a course toward recession so they have the tools in hand to end the recession that they themselves created.
It ought to be illegal for Stephen Moore to talk about real economists in those kind of bombastically derisive terms.
Oh, and if you’re wondering whether Moore changes his tune about the relative merits of rate hikes depending on who is president, the answer is “yes”.
“During the Obama presidency, he warned that runaway government spending would produce hyperinflation [and] in 2009, he appeared on Glenn Beck’s program to wax hysteric”, the above-mentioned
MOORE: We’ve seen this happened to Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Russia, all consumed by government, all do-gooders — some of that led to the decline of their civilizations.
BECK: So, do we have hyperinflation with this scenario?
MOORE: Could be. I mean, that’s happened — in some countries, hyperinflation gets so bad, Glenn, that people have to go to the shopping stores literally with wheelbarrows full of their currency. In some countries, that people don’t even use the currency. In other countries, they print the currency but they don’t put the denomination on it because they write it down on the piece of paper.
MOORE: And the currency becomes as valueless as the paper that it is printed on.
MOORE: And why do people buy gold?
MOORE: Because they don’t think money is worth anything anymore.
GERALD CELENTE: Not worth the paper it’s printed.
MOORE: Right. They don’t think it’s worth anything.
And it just goes on and on and on and on.
The bottom line here – in case it isn’t clear enough – is that Stephen is going to utterly embarrass himself if he somehow manages to clear all the hurdles he’ll need to clear to land himself the board seat offered by Trump.
But don’t tell that to the president. Because according to him, Moore is “a very respected economist”.
It is my pleasure to announce that @StephenMoore, a very respected Economist, will be nominated to serve on the Fed Board. I have known Steve for a long time – and have no doubt he will be an outstanding choice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2019
In an administration that never ceases to disappoint when it comes to cranking up the ridiculousness, this is yet another incredible feat of buffoonery.