What Donald Trump's team of advisers tells us about his economic plan

Donald Trump's latest list of economic advisers includes hedge-fund managers, billionaire bankers, and an oil tycoon, but only one economist with a doctorate and no women. 

Evan Vucci/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Florida, Aug. 3, 2016. Mr. Trump has released the names of his six economic advisers.

Donald Trump made public his team of economic advisers to “make America great again,” an early indication of the plan the Republican presidential candidate will unveil in a speech Monday to turn around an economy he has said has been hurt by poor trade agreements, immigration, and the loss of American manufacturers.

Among the 13 men on Mr. Trump’s list are hedge-fund managers, bankers, real estate investors, a steel executive, and a fracking tycoon. Absent are the names of any women and well-known policy experts, save for one economist with a doctorate and a tax policy expert.

Trump’s advisers, whose median worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions, embodies his anti-establishment pitch that America’s billionaires are the only ones who can save the country.

“I am pleased that we have such a formidable group of experienced and talented individuals that will work with me to implement real solutions for the economic issues facing our country,” said Trump, in a statement. “I am going to be the greatest jobs President our country has ever seen.”

But, economists from across the political spectrum slammed the list because it lacked academics and previous administrations’ advisers, “usually the bread-and-butter of campaign policy teams,” as The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley wrote Friday.

Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, and a New York Times columnist, tweeted a tirade after the list was released.

The team includes Trump’s competitors, associates, and friends. One of the most prominent names on it is John Paulson, president and chief executive of the investment firm that bears his name. Mr. Paulson earned himself and his firm billions of dollars when he bet on the 2007 housing market collapse, according to the Times. Paulson’s move on stocks and the economy have been less accurate lately, according to Reuters. His investments have lost about $15 billion in assets in the last five years.

Stephen Moore is Trump’s “anti-tax” tax policy expert. The Heritage Foundation’s chief economist previewed Trump’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club scheduled for Monday. Mr. Moore, in an interview with Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo published in USA Today Sunday said Trump will lower corporate taxes, decrease export tariffs while increasing import tariffs, and renegotiate trade agreements.

Moore said Trump would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. Trump, said Moore, intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which hasn’t taken effect yet.

Another member of Trump’s economic team offers a window into how the candidate hopes to address American manufacturing, in particular steel.

Dan DiMicco is the former chief executive and executive chairman of Nucor, one of the country’s largest steel producers. Mr. DiMicco has also been an outspoken voice against American trade agreements and how they affect manufacturers. Like Trump, DiMicco has directed much of his disparagement at China.

In DiMicco’s 2015 book, “American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness,” he disparages the Obama administration and Republicans for their “Pollyannaish view of free trade,” as Charles Morris, a fellow at The Century Foundation, writes in a book review for The Wall Street Journal. But DiMicco’s loudest criticism is against China, which he claimed is illegally underpricing its steel, a charge Trump often makes too.

The lone economist with a doctorate on Trump’s team is Peter Navarro, a professor at the University of California, Irvine. Mr. Navarro is also a consistent critic of China and who Trump has praised for his documentary “Death by China.”  Professor Navarro, in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times in late July, backed Trump’s call for a 45-percent tariff against Chinese goods.

“Let’s set the record straight,” writes Navarro. “Trump will impose countervailing tariffs not just on China, but on any American trade partner that cheats on its trade deals using practices such as currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies. Such tariffs are not protectionist but rather defensive.”

Also on the Trump list is David Malpass, a former Treasury and State Department official. Mr. Maplass was the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for former President Ronald Reagan, the deputy assistant secretary of State for former President George H.W. Bush, and an analyst in Congress.

Others critical of Trump’s team said it is incongruous with his message to support the middle class. The team is mostly made up of billionaire investors, not specialists in issues that face the middle class and women.

“Trump could have signaled his commitment to these issues by publicly surrounding himself with people who have expertise on these topics. He chose not to,” Abby McCloskey, an economist who was policy director for former Texas governor Rick Perry’s short-lived campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, told The Washington Post.

But Trump’s pitch has long been that the billionaires of the business world know how to save the middle class. “The advisers reinforce that idea,” writes Mr. Tankersley of the Post.






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