For those who still think a job in the Trump administration is an honor, follow the career of the president’s latest nominee for how to get one.
Stephen Moore, pundit, think-tank fellow, congressional aide, and author who preached his supply-side theories at the fringes of power for three decades is poised to walk into the hallowed halls of the Federal Reserve Board, a previously sacrosanct institution that’s tried to remain above politics.
The Republicans who at first noticed the gap between Moore’s qualifications and those traditionally required for such a delicate job have mostly gone silent. One said that to point out that Moore wasn’t up to the job, or that he is too polarizing for it, was like warning Trump not to reopen Obamacare again. It just hardens his resolve.
Three influential members of Senate Banking praised Moore this week. What looked like a joke nomination now has a good chance of succeeding.
How Moore went from a lightly credentialed economist — he has a Master’s from George Mason University and served as a senior economist to former Congressman Dick Armey — to likely governor of the Federal Reserve Board is a roadmap to success in the new swamp.
As with many appointees, Moore did as much TV as possible during Trump’s executive-time hours, endorsing Trump’s every notion, even though it meant changing beliefs on free trade and immigration he’d held his whole adult life.
An amiable figure who is friendly with Democrats, Moore eats the scenery when the red light comes on. Climate change is a "dingbat" notion pushed by "Stalinists" he once told the camera.
"To be against fracking," he said on C-Span in 2016, "is like being against a cure for cancer."
He didn’t go so far as to say the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cause a disease but did say it would crater the economy. When the number of part-time jobs ticked up, which is good news, he claimed that confirmed his prediction that the ACA would cause widespread unemployment.
Moore didn’t slight print, even though Trump doesn’t read all that much. After all, civilian lawyer William Barr wrote a 19-page memo on executive privilege casting shade on special counsel Robert Mueller and next thing you know he’s attorney general again. Moore co-wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal in mid-March, "The Fed is a Threat to Growth."
Like Trump he believes interest rates should be lowered. Trump wondered aloud why Moore wasn’t his Fed chair instead of that pesky Powell. Told that he can’t legally fire Powell, Trump settled on Moore as one of seven governors.
Moore’s north star is tax cuts so powerful they could cure the common cold, the gold standard, and whatever Trump is making up in the moment. He contradicts himself from one book, op-ed, and white paper to another, confident that in the United States of Amnesia no one is keeping track.
He predicted that Clinton’s tax increase would create a recession (it didn’t) and Bush’s tax cuts would create an economic boom (they didn’t) without blowing up the deficit in "Bullish on Bush: How George Bush’s Ownership Society Will Make America Stronger."
Declare that Trump’s economic plan was vague by design (not by design) but then that it’s the "most detailed" of anyone running (it wasn’t) if it gets the attention of the candidate.
Moore was so determined to make a point against Paul Krugman, who criticized him for former Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts that nearly bankrupted Kansas, that he defended himself with twisted data, earning him the only known lifetime ban from the pages of The Kansas City Star.
Any friend of Trump’s is now a friend of Moore’s, for instance suspected child molester Roy Moore (no relation), whom Moore backed in his Alabama Senate run only because Trump did.
And Moore is willing to be as nasty as the man whose admiration he’s after, even, or perhaps especially, when that means tearing down the institution he wants to join and trash-talking his prospective boss. Fed chair Jerome Powell, Moore said, should be fired for "wrecking our economy."
He and Trump were "furious" at Powell over the December rate increase, Moore said in a radio interview.
Among those who don’t think the Fed is "loco," there’s concern that Moore is too hot for the calm, deliberative, apolitical body that sets monetary policy quietly. Hearing some concerns, Kevin Hassett, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, said last week that "as a nominee, you have to be more careful about every little word you utter."
Moore said he regretted his angry rhetoric but not the message.
Former Senate Banking Committee chair and influential current member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., pronounced himself satisfied with the prospective board member because the Fed could use a "new voice."
Three others on the 13-member committee where Republicans have a one-vote margin signaled their approval of the nomination.
Moore saw that for Trump, personnel is entirely personal. Last spring, Trump’s personal White House physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson proclaimed the president in excellent health, with "incredible genes," and not obese.
For his trouble, Jackson, who’d overseen a tiny operation, was appointed to lead the VA with a budget of $185 billion and 377,000 employees. Trump wanted his private pilot to lead the FAA, and left the post empty for two years when he couldn't push him through.
That’s one of the reasons Boeing was able to conduct its own inspections, self-certifying the 737Max safe to fly.
There’s no flattery Trump won’t believe, even Mike Pence’s assertion that he was chosen by God. So go for it: Moore said Trump should get a Nobel Prize in Economics. Called him Reaganesque. It was too late to name his first-born Donald, but he did name a book after him even though the effort,"Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy" was called "snake oil" by Greg Mankiw, head of the Council of Economic Advisers for George W. Bush.
No problem for Moore.
He’s after an audience of one, who definitely judges a book by its title.
Because it’s Trump, there’s the danger that pesky reporters will do the vetting the White House personnel office doesn’t have time for between its in-office happy hour and trying to push through overdue ethics clearances for Secretaries Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross.
Saturday, The Guardian reported that a judge had held Moore in contempt for failing to pay his first wife more than $300,000 he owed in spousal and child support.
That came days after Bloomberg reported that Moore, who’s based his career on tax policy, has a lien against him for $75,328 in back taxes from 2014. His second wife told Bloomberg that because Moore had moved, he never received the IRS ruling against their accidental deduction of child-support payments to his former wife.
That’s inconsistent with her statement that while they have decided to pay the lien as quickly as possible they will continue to dispute the ruling.
Not to worry. Moore’s good fortune extends to being chosen by the one president who knows that bad audits, and bad prenups, happen to good people.
When Trump first announced his intention to appoint Moore, it looked like one ridiculous appointment too far. Instead Moore proves that for Trump, there is no such thing as too ridiculous, or too far.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s "Capital Gang" and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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