Instapundit, Glenn Harlan Reynolds seems to be guilty of a gaff, accidentally telling the truth, when he comes to the following conclusion:
FDR knew this. [He understood the signals. We think he was convinced that his policies were useful.] His New Deal economic policies were mostly snake oil — according to a study by UCLA economists, they actually prolonged the Great Depression by seven years. But FDR made people feel like he cared, even though he was a rich man from New York who had never been poor himself.
Now another rich man from New York seems to be repeating the formula. FDR gave the Democrats two decades of political dominance. Today’s Democrats should be worrying that Trump could do the same for the Republican Party.
We agree that FDR made the Depression great. His policies economically unsuccessful but at the same time were politically successful. The political success has led to the press suggesting that he changed policies from Hoover.
Now we have Trump doing the same thing as Glenn points out. Trump’s Carrier gambit is bad policy. During FDR’s time we were less certain that his policies were snake oil. Will Trump get good press from it? Of course not. He may, however, be able to bypass the press and get positive results from the gambit.
The issue is what to think about Trump’s Carrier gambit assuming Glenn is right that the policy is wrong (almost certainly) but political outcome is positive (pretty likely) for Trump? All presidents embrace bad policies to get political support. Every president, even the nominal free-traders, embraces some protectionism for political gain. From 1981-2009 there were more steps forward despite a few protectionist steps back. Why were there steps back? They were thought to be politically necessary.
Sidebar: While FDR was making the Depression great he worked with Churchill before Poland to prepare for WW II. It was a reasonable trade-off. End Sidebar.
No president has been a 100% free-trader. Clearly, Trump is way less a free-trader than the ’81-’09 presidents. The question is: what is going to be the trade-off. The answer remains to be seen. What will Trump do if he gets the wind at his back? The Really Great Recession caused by amped up protectionism is not a good price for two decades of political dominance. We have rolled the dice but the results will take time to see.