Reagan’s “Boy Wonder” Nails It On Trade

Excellent CNBC interview with David Stockman, President Reagan’s head of OMB, who speaks his mind and never holds back.    Some dismiss him as a perma-bear and doomsayer.

We certainly don’t, just has been a bit early, like every analyst and economist worth their salt.  His analysis and model are sound.

By the way, if you ever meet someone who claims they always top tick or buy every bottom,  and have perfect timing, run as fast as you can.

Moreover, the former “beltway boy wonder” doesn’t have to make his money trading and can maintain his conviction without going bankrupt or losing his career.   He will eventually be right.   It’s all timing, my friends.

Listening to him today, we respect him even more for his intellectual honesty.   We have always perceived Mr. Stockman as a supporter of the president, but we could be wrong.

He never allows his politics to warp his analysis.  Rare and refreshing.

Taken To Woodshed

He was famously “taken to the woodshed” by President Reagan for his statements in a 1981 Atlantic Monthly article, that “supply-side economics — the backbone of the Reagan economic revolution – was a ‘Trojan horse’ that would ultimately benefit the rich.”

He laid it all out there today and held nothing back.

Money quotes from today’s interview *

  • Imbalances are not the result of bad trade deals
  • We have had 43 straight years of large and growing current account deficits, that is a monetary issue
  • A trade war is not going to solve it…let interest rates find their right level
  • The fact is, we are heading into a massive trade war in the world
  • Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing at all. He is making it up. He is a hopeless protectionist with a 17th-century view of the world
  • We have an absurd policy — dangerous, stupid. The worst that I’ve seen since my whole career started in 1970 under [President Richard] Nixon, and he did some crazy things
  • The market marches to new highs until it doesn’t
  • In 1990…the average tariff in China was about 30 percent, the average tariff in China today is 3 ½ percent. It is not an issue
  • What they [Trump administration] are objecting to is China’s policy of “no ticky, no washy.” In other words, if you want to come to China and do business, you have to be in a joint venture and share your technology
  • If somebody wants to go to China so they can come on CNBC and brag they are in a growth market then they ought to put up with the local regulations
  • Don’t start a trade war and throw the soybean farmer under the bus because of some big business lobby in Washington is whining about China’s terms of business

*the interview was concluded before the announcement of a 10 percent on an additional $200 billion of Chinese imports was published by the USTR after the market close.  

Tough words.

No Reagan Moment On Free Trade

Sorry,  

Trump’s triggers his base with words such as “free trade,” among others,  and blames much of their problems on the “bad trade deals” of previous administrations.   It works for him.  Why fix it?

But those who, like me, thought Trump’s bark would be worse than his bite on trade are having second thoughts about where all of this might lead.  – Dani Rodrik

President Xi Won’t Back Down

Moreover,  how in the world can President Xi, after consolidating power for life as the country’s ultimate strongman now back down and look weak to the Chinese people?   China has secured the high ground of multilateralism.  Even if it’s bullshit or not.   Furthermore,  the U.S. appears to be growing exponentially more isolated.

Nonlinear Dynamics

As we posted on Friday,  we are now in a nonlinear trajectory.  Things can unravel fast, or be put right quickly.   Maybe the Senate?   Nobody knows where this will end up.

We have all learned over the past 18 months that the president is capable of doing a 180, even in mid-sentence, and convince himself he held the position all along.  That unpredictability makes it a risky trade.

Markets In The Land Of Pharaoh

It does feel the markets are in Egypt, however.  The land of de Nile.

The post-war international order is more at risk of unraveling – and we are not saying its demise is imminent – than is currently priced.

Stay tuned.

Jul11_Stockman

Click here to view interview

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