TIME Magazine December 19, 2016 issue, Donald Trump, Person of the Year

Donald Trump Invented Keynesian Economics

If you haven’t heard, President Trump has coined a new phrase in economics: prime the pump.

In a recent interview with The Economist, Trump defended increasing the federal deficit to justify his proposed tax cuts.

[I]t’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down,” Trump explained.

He went on to recount how he invented the expression, apparently in a recent moment of inspiration.

Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just… I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do,” Trump told the magazine.

Of course, this would come as a surprise to the Hebert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt administrations, as well as any students of Keynesian economics over the last 80 years or so.

Priming the pump” is a common economic term which refers to the government pumping funds into the economy in order to spur economic growth. It was first employed by the Hoover and Roosevelt Administrations to combat the Great Depression. More recently, the concept was employed by President Obama in the 2009 stimulus, which poured $831 billion in deficit spending into the economy. As with previous efforts during the Great Depression, Obama’s effort to “prime the pump” met with lackluster results.

The editors of The Economist, being versed in, ahem, economics, immediately pointed out to the President the phrases relation to Keynesian policy. “So you would have a bigger deficit, a stimulus, to prime the pump that would lead to faster growth?” they asked.

Caught in his lie, and having stumbled into the weeds of economic concepts in which he never meant to tread, Trump retreated to his classic standby: he filibustered. After a three paragraph answer about the corporate tax rate and Michigan poll numbers, he succeeded in getting the interviewers to change the subject.

It’s a shame that at a moment when Republicans control all of the levers of power in Washington, our President cheaply massages his ego by claiming to be a Keynesian savant rather than be a defender of classic liberal economics. Is it too much to ask for an informed and articulate advocate for conservative, supply-side economics?

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Andy Crawford

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