Larry Kudlow, president’s choice to direct his National Economic Council, has a nearly perfect record of making wrong predictions about the economy.
Way back in 1999, Kudlow proposed a wildly optimistic take on stock prices, saying that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would go to 50,000 by 2020.
Unfortunately, about a year after his predictions appeared, the dot-com bubble burst and the dreams of a stock market soaring from gravity’s grip burst with them.
Kudlow didn’t seem to be chastened by this experience; he went on to a career as a TV business commentator, delivering an amazing series of bum steers as the years rolled by. And now, as if in recognition of his dreadful lifetime achievements, he is to be appointed director of the National Economic Council. He has failed about as far as one can fail.
What could our success-worshiping president possibly see in such a man? Does Trump actively want to get bad advice? Is Kudlow’s flattery worth that much?
Business may be a matter of hard numbers, but business commentary is often a thing of soaring ideological fancy. And the ideology in Kudlow’s case is a powerful form of populism.
By cheering for the stock market, he cheered for the common man. Markets were arenas of a vast, ongoing confrontation in which the common people squared off against the arrogant and destructive tribe Kudlow loved to revile as the “economic establishment.”
Who was this establishment? They were university professors, Kudlow wrote, intellectuals “who had wrapped themselves in the comfortable and smug self-knowledge that economics could only be managed by distinguished university dons; free-markets and the unfettered actions of ordinary people in commerce, trade and finance was a dangerous thing, something that must be tightly controlled … ”
Kudlow’s description of economics was ridiculous. As part of the age-old campaign to make big business seem like your beloved pal – to make the big shots on Wall Street appear to be men of the people – it was kind of ingenious. The idea was that markets speak with the people’s voice; that those who would regulate, tax, supervise, break up monopolies or organize unions are snobs, university big-shots who longed to keep “ordinary people” in their place.
By appointing Kudlow, the president seems to be betting that the substance of the populist narrative doesn’t matter as much as does the superficial rhetoric of the thing.
Kudlow likes to talk about the day big business is liberated from arrogant regulators.
The real danger in elevating Kudlow to a position of such great public authority, is not that he will continue to mis-inform the world (though of course he will), but that he will be in a position to put his destructive ideology into effect.
When Kudlow predicted that the Dow would hit 50,000, for example, he wrote that it would happen by the year 2020 – a time when he himself may well be directing the National Economic Council.
How might Kudlow contrive to make his prediction come true? His own writings from the bubble days suggest the answer: more tax cuts, of course; plenty of deregulation; and maybe even what Kudlow once coyly called “individual ownership of social security contributions.”
In, 2016 millions of average Americans enthusiastically signed up for a war on elites; with boisterous hurrahs they climbed aboard the Trump train; and after a few years’ journey they are going to find themselves deposited right back where they started, with inequality growing, more monopolies springing up, and Wall Street ideologues running everything.
In the meantime, the Larry Kudlow show is just getting started. And the masses that were told that Trump was looking out for their interests, will be worse off than before.