Reviewing Donald Trump's economic plans : The Indicator from Planet Money Danielle Kurtzleben from NPR's Washington Desk breaks down Donald Trump's economic policies and plans for a second term.
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What Is Trumponomics?

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What Is Trumponomics?

What Is Trumponomics?

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CARDIFF GARCIA, HOST:

Hey, everyone. Before we start today's show, I just want to let you know that THE INDICATOR is hiring for its next intern. So if you're interested in applying, please go to npr.org/internships and find the application there. Thanks so much.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON, BYLINE: NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

GARCIA: Hey, everyone. It's Cardiff. This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. And I'm joined once again, as I was in the previous episode, by Danielle Kurtzleben, reporter on the NPR Politics team.

Danielle, welcome back.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: You again; hi.

GARCIA: I know, right? There's a reason that we're doing a double header with you, which is that the last time, we talked about Joe Biden's proposed economic policies. And today we're going to talk about the president, Donald Trump's proposed economic policies, what he might do in a second term. And I know you're jazzed to talk about this because even though you're a politics reporter, you're more of a - policy freak is the way I think about it.

KURTZLEBEN: I'll take that as a compliment. Yeah, that sounds about right.

GARCIA: It is a compliment. It's a huge compliment.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

GARCIA: You're not as into the horse race.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, yeah.

GARCIA: You know what I mean? Like, I actually worry that if you went to an actual horse race, you would, like, shoot the horses because you hate the metaphor so much.

KURTZLEBEN: What?

GARCIA: You know what I'm saying?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Nothing - moving on. After a quick break, Danielle takes us through Donald Trump's economic policy agenda. We pick three parts that we think are especially important right after a quick break.

KURTZLEBEN: Please keep that.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Oh, it's staying. That's definitely staying.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

GARCIA: OK. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR politics reporter, we need to start with pandemic policy because we covered Joe Biden's pandemic policy. And you made the point recently that pandemic policy is economic policy, so what is Donald Trump's proposed pandemic policy going into a second term?

KURTZLEBEN: Right, so we talked yesterday about how Joe Biden is very much focused on containing the virus.

GARCIA: Sure.

KURTZLEBEN: Donald Trump, on the other hand, is very much focused on vaccines and treatments for the virus, so he has said that he wants to begin distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year. And a number he has put out there is to have 300 million doses available by January 2021. Now, that is a lofty goal. And, of course, it is very dependent on whether pharmaceutical companies, scientists are able to come up with, test and approve a vaccine and then produce it on that scale - hundreds of millions of doses. So this is a thing he wants, but it is not entirely under his power.

GARCIA: And Danielle, he's been kind of de-emphasizing the role of the federal government when it comes to containing the virus - right? - and leaving it more to state governments.

KURTZLEBEN: Donald Trump has very much been focused on, states know best. Governors and state legislatures know best what they should be doing to control the virus in their states. I'm in Washington. I don't know what you need in Nebraska. So the Nebraska governor, for example, hypothetically, should be the person to be calling some of these shots. Also, he has been very much attacking Joe Biden's and some other Democrats' willingness to say, look; some places, some businesses, some schools might have to close down to contain the virus. Donald Trump has taken a very you've-got-to-live-your-lives, we-have-to-have-the-economy-open sort of approach. That's the rhetoric he's been using.

GARCIA: OK. Let's go on to the second part of the President Trump economic agenda, which is about jobs creation as a big policy goal, especially in the next year. What's going on there?

KURTZLEBEN: Right, so he has set a very ambitious goal of 10 million jobs in 10 months. So if you can imagine 10 straight jobs days of a million jobs apiece or something that averages out to that...

GARCIA: Sounds great, yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. Yeah, let's do it. And by the way, we are down by roughly 10 million jobs from where we were pre-pandemic. So what he's saying is in 10 months, get back to normal. But the question is, how? This is a lovely idea, but it's not entirely clear how we would get there. Now, one thing he has said is he wants to offer tax credits to manufacturing companies that bring jobs back from China, but that would not get us anywhere near 10 million.

Now, in addition, I reached out to the White House to ask, OK, what else is on the docket? And a spokesman got back to me, and he largely pointed to past policies, saying, for example, lower taxes, deregulation, trade policies and the relief packages already passed laid good groundwork for future growth to happen. So, in other words, before the pandemic, the economy was going great. And I did that, so I think I can just get us back there again - is a line of logic that he is often using. Now, there are a lot of flaws to that logic, a lot of questions that raises. For example, should the president get full credit for that? I mean, arguably, no.

GARCIA: Long debate, long debate, yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter) Right. But, yes, he has a very big, lofty goal here but not a clear map to get to that goal.

GARCIA: Yeah. I want to point out something kind of interesting here, though, because the president and his administration, his campaign, have talked a lot about lower taxes, tax credits, tax policy. But he did sign into law the multitrillion-dollar CARES Act. He has been negotiating with Democrats in the House of Representatives over a multitrillion-dollar new stimulus package. And it's actually the Republicans in the Senate who have said that they don't want to spend that much more money, but the president himself has said that he would be willing to do a big deal. He would be willing to spend money.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, that's true. And when you look at the different numbers put out there between Senate Republicans, the White House and House Democrats, there is a lot of daylight. And even then, even if it were just the White House and House Democrats, there are also some gaps there in terms of what House Democrats want and what the White House doesn't want. But, yeah, you throw in all three of those parties, and they haven't been able to reach a deal. And you and I both know American people are very much hurting right now - high unemployment, people still on unemployment and needing money to buy the basics.

GARCIA: Let's go to the third and final part of the economic agenda that we're going to discuss here, which is trade wars. Trade wars have been a big, dominant part of President Trump's rhetoric and of his actual agenda throughout his first term. I suspect we would be seeing more of the same in the second term.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, Trump has said that he plans on continuing to use tariffs, specifically against China, in his second term as he has this term. And so the question is, what exactly would that do? And what would it induce? - because we did sign that trade deal with China in February, the phase one trade deal. Thus far from the numbers we have, China is not on track to meet the commitments it made to buying U.S. goods in areas like agriculture, for example.

GARCIA: This was a deal that happened after both China and the U.S. had raised tariffs on each other. And then in exchange for lowering some U.S. tariffs, China agreed to buy some U.S. products. But so far, it's not on pace to actually buy as much of those products as it said it was going to be.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. But on top of all of this, there are complicating factors. One is that Trump has very much been demonizing China when it comes to coronavirus. He keeps calling it the China virus and thinks to the effect of, China needs to pay for its role in coronavirus spreading all over the world. So you can imagine how that might make trade talks in the future much tougher.

GARCIA: Yes, indeed. I would imagine exactly that.

KURTZLEBEN: I do want to add one more point here on the topic of China. And it's that there has been broad agreement, bipartisan agreement for a while that, yes, China has been engaging in unfair trade practices in all sorts of ways, so Trump may have the diagnosis - right? - that, yeah, we need to do something about China's trade practices. But the question is whether he has the solution, the cure - right? - here in terms of tariffs.

GARCIA: I'll tell you what, Danielle, it's been so great to have you on our show these last few days. Thank you so much.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

GARCIA: This episode of THE INDICATOR was produced by Darin Woods and fact-checked by Sean Saldana. Our editor is Paddy Hirsch, and THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

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