Must-Read: Paul Krugman: The Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight

Must-Read: Yes, Trump appointments are doing substantial damage to the competence of the government. Why do you ask?: Paul Krugman: The Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight: “Puerto Rico[’s]… residents, almost a third of whom are still without power…

…four months after the storm…. FEMA officials told NPR that the disaster agency was ending its work on the island. FEMA later said that this was a miscommunication. But at the very least it suggests a complete lack of focus….

Trump… declared… that he is “committed” to taking action on the opioid epidemic. But… what he did do was appoint a 24-year-old former campaign worker, with no relevant experience before joining the administration—who appears to have lied on his résumé…. The Trump-appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned after Politico reported that she had purchased tobacco-industry stocks after taking office…. These aren’t isolated examples…. The Trump administration is a graveyard for reputations: Everyone who goes in comes out soiled and diminished. Only fools, or those with no reputation to lose, even want the positions on offer. And in any case, Trump, who values personal loyalty above professionalism, probably distrusts anyone whose credentials might give some sense of independence….

America is a very big country with a lot of strengths, and it can run on momentum for a long time even if none of the people in charge know what they’re doing. Sooner or later, however, stuff happens—and then incompetence becomes a very big deal, as it already has in Puerto Rico. What kind of stuff may happen? The scariest scenarios involve national security. But we can’t count on smooth sailing for the economy….

Lower-level Fed appointments are becoming cause for concern…. Marvin Goodfriend, whom Trump has nominated for the Fed’s Board of Governors. Democrats pointed out that Goodfriend was wrong, again and again, about monetary policy during the crisis, repeatedly predicting inflation that didn’t happen. Now, everyone makes bad predictions now and then; God knows I have. But you’re supposed to face up to your mistakes, figure out what went wrong and adapt your views. Goodfriend refused to do any of that. And why should he? His errors were politically correct; they reinforced Republican orthodoxy. From the G.O.P.’s point of view, having been completely wrong about monetary policy isn’t a defect, it’s practically a badge of honor.

The point is that even at the Fed, which is partly insulated from the Trumpian reign of error, U.S. policymaking is being denuded of expertise. And the whole nation will eventually pay the price.

February 3, 2018


Brad DeLong
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