Radio debate on RSI taking stock of the economics of Mr. Trump

I had the privilege to be invited to a Radio debate on Radio della Svizzera Italiana with former IMF director Carlo Cottarelli to discuss the economic consequences of Mr. Trump’s (first?) administration. Listen to the debate (in Italian) here.

Here is the Upshot of my argument:

For the first three years of his mandate, Trump presided over a goldilocks economy which largely was not of his own making, even though he created a strawfire with an ill-timed and unbalanced fiscal reform that favors the rich and limited fiscal space. The economic consequences of his denial of the COVID challenge will pose the greatest threat to his re-election.

Regarding his America-first agenda, his promise to bring back jobs in the classical manufacturing sector remains largely unfulfilled. His unilateralism alienated European allies and led to a trade war with China which is ill-targeted in its focus on traditional trade in goods. More recently the focus has shifted to a strategic rivalry with China in high technology and the internet as well as to issues regarding IP protection and the level playing field in foreign direct investment. Here he has a point and this is a key issue that will stick around under future administrations, be they republican or democrat.

Future administrations will have to deal with built-in injustices of the tax system that have been reinforced by Trump’s reform. The focus here will not necessarily have to be on fiscal consolidation — the US can afford to borrow and , provided it is doing well economically, it can outgrow even very high levels of public debt — but on tackling economic inequality.