Once upon a time, in a reality far, far away, Lawrence Summers was the 71st Secretary of the US Treasury.
It's true! Just ask him.
Larry is something of a freelance academic superhero these days, bestowing his lefty economic brilliance on everyone from hedge funds to Silicon Valley VCs and the exquisitely narrow region of industry in between. In that capacity, Larry sometimes fires off missives containing his thoughts on what's happening in the American economy. It's no secret that Summers is rather critical of the Trump regime, but one would assume that there is something of a code amongst Treasury Secretaries. However after watching Mnuchin act out the commedia dell'arte of presenting Trump's one-page, detail-free tax plan on live television, Summers seems to have concluded that no such code exists:
As I read about the proposals and thought back over the tax discussions of the last year, I found myself feeling sympathetic to Mnuchin. Some of the most difficult moments for any Cabinet officer comes when the president fails to respect his department’s desire to do serious policy work, when political circumstance forces the repudiation of his major past statements, and when he has to out of loyalty support absurd propositions. All three of these things happened to Secretary Mnuchin this week.
This is the serious economist version of "I don't hate you, honey. I feel bad for you." And Larry Summers, famed shade queen, was just getting warmed up.
First he damns Mnuchin with faint praise,
By all accounts the Treasury was on a path working with other agencies to come forth by June with a set of tax reform proposals. Treasury officials were shocked when the president, speaking in the Treasury building, announced last Friday that the administration would unveil its tax plan today. There was no time for specification of a proposal, let alone consultation on its merits, estimates of its revenue impact, or evaluations of its economic impact. Instead the treasury secretary was asked to lend his prestige and that of his department to a one page document that would have been judged skimpy on detail if it were a campaign proposal.
Translation: "You were probably doing your job, Stevie - or at least the best you can being as woefully unprepared as you are - but your crazy boss screwed you over. I would say I know what that feels like but I don't because I never worked for maniacs and my leviathan of an ego would never have let this happen."
And then Larry cuts deep:
I can only imagine how demoralized the Treasury tax staff — a group that rightly prides itself on its professionalism and analytic seriousness — must be.
Summers goes on to unsubtly accuse Mnuchin of lying about who the tax plan benefits most (ie rich people) and then seems to get bored with the veil of politesse because he just decides t drop the fucking hammer on the current national treasurer:
Mnuchin also stated last week, in what appeared to be a scripted interview, that tax cuts would be so good for growth that they would come very close to paying for themselves. This of course is the famous Laffer curve idea. In the context of an economy with 4.5 percent unemployment, it is absurd. Ronald Reagan asserted that tax cuts could pay for themselves during his campaign but his Treasury Department was far too serious to ever make such a statement. His administration recognized that large tax cuts would raise deficits unless offset by spending cuts. So did the George W. Bush Administration. So have House and Senate Republicans. So has every reputable economist who has addressed the subject in the last several decades.
The treasury secretary’s credibility is an important national asset that could be needed at any moment. I am very sorry to see it squandered on behalf of a set of tax reform proposals that are at best a bargaining position.
The only thing that Larry Summers knows more in his soul than girls suck at math is that Steve Mnuchin sucks at Treasury.