Steve Mnuchin showed up on Fox Business Monday to chat with Maria Bartiromo about a variety of topics, including trade and the US economy, which many observers worry is headed in the wrong direction.
As laughable as it sounds, Mnuchin is still clinging to a shred of credibility, and not because anything he says should necessarily be taken seriously, but rather because Peter Navarro and Larry Kudlow habitually regurgitate outright propaganda, so by comparison, Mnuchin’s monotone monologues are a breath of fresh air.
That doesn’t mean he won’t shamelessly toe the party line, it’s just that Steve isn’t likely to get aggressive with anybody or otherwise come across as overtly nefarious. Witness, for example, Mnuchin explain that the US economy isn’t destined for recession:
There are a lot of absurd soundbites in there, including Mnuchin’s efforts to perpetuate the manifestly ridiculous notion that G-7 leaders were falling all over themselves to congratulate Trump on his economic achievements last month in France, but Steve’s frog-in-headlights demeanor is somewhat disarming.
Note how Mnuchin adopts a kind of end-around when it comes to imploring the Fed to cut rates. “I think what you see is that on a relative basis, we’re still high relative to the rest of the world on interest rates and you also see the market’s expectation of the Fed doing rate cuts”, Steve said.
There are no “lies” in there, per se, but the implication is that Mnuchin is under pressure to parrot the rate cut narrative. As Treasury secretary, he can’t demand looser monetary policy, so instead, he communicates the White House’s exhortations by making a series of observations.
The real punchline came when Mnuchin was asked by Bartiromo if it’s “fair to say” that the trade war is affecting both the Chinese and US economies. Steve responded by saying that China’s economy is most assuredly hurting, but that the administration has seen “no evidence” of the domestic economy being impacted.
Bartiromo was dubious. “Can you really say that”, she pressed. “Yes I can really say that”, Mnuchin responded.
While Mnuchin can “really say that” right now, it may be harder to “really say” next year when the economy invariably slows to a sub-1% growth rate, but for the time being, Steve is couching the recent slowdown in terms of normal “volatility” in the incoming data.
Finally, Bartiromo pressed Mnuchin on the budget. Steve tried to answer, but eventually, Fox’s production team started to roll the music that plays Maria into a commercial break, leading to the following awkward exchange that marked the end of the interview.
You almost feel bad for Steve – almost.