Trump puts his own financial interests first when he badgers the Fed to cut interest rates
Wall Street pros have a term for people who recommend whichever actions will make them the most money: Talking their book.
When your broker calls out of the blue to tell you should buy XYZ stock without mentioning that he’s also trying to sell his own shares, he’s talking his book. When a trader goes on TV to bad-mouth PDQ bonds, seeking to drive down the price so she can secretly pick up some more on the cheap, she’s talking her book.
Or when an overleveraged president hounds the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates (even below zero!), without ever coming clean about the fact that lower rates would save him millions of dollars a year, you know what he’s up to.
The American people should not have to wonder if the president or his close advisers have a conflict of interest.
It’s assumed that everyone on Wall Street always talks their book, but that’s not so in Washington, where public officials are supposed to put the people’s interests first and their own financial interests into a blind trust so they have no idea if their decisions would help or hurt their portfolio.
At least that was the way it was until Trump came to town to drain the swamp. He refused to divest his assets. He denied that it was even possible for a president to have a conflict of interest. Although he claims that he no longer runs the Trump Organization, he still owns it and stands to benefit when the government favors his company, which it does every day (and twice on Sundays).
If you think it is immoral, if not illegal, for the president to earn an emolument when (to give just one example among thousands) he rents golf carts to the Secret Service agents whose job it is to give up their lives if necessary to protect him on the back nine, then you have a better ethical compass than every Republican politician (now that Justin Amash has left the party, that is).
Low interest-rate guy
It’s largely forgotten now, but Trump has been calling for lower interest rates since early in his term, when the top of the fed funds target range FF00, +0.00% was only 1%. At that time, the economy did not need lower interest rates, but the self-described King of Debt sure did.
During the campaign of 2016, Trump briefly put his political interests ahead of his money, complaining loudly and frequently that the Fed had kept rates unnecessarily low in order to benefit President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
But as soon as he was in office, Trump’s political and financial interests aligned again. He flip-flopped and argued that low interest rates were good, not bad. “I do like a low-interest-rate policy, I must be honest with you,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s complaints about interest rates continued even after he replaced Fed Chair Janet Yellen with Jerome Powell, after he appointed more Fed governors, and even after the 2017 tax-cut bill pushed the economy into a temporarily higher orbit.
Trump’s criticisms of the Fed grew sharper and more specific beginning last fall, after Trump’s escalating threats to raise tariffs on Chinese imports began to rattle markets and threaten the economy.
In early August, just after the Fed’s first rate cut in 10 years, Shahien Nasiripour of Bloomberg News took a deep dive into Trump’s financial-disclosure statements and into other public documents. He concluded that every quarter-point cut in the federal funds rate would save Trump about $850,000 per year.
Nasiripour had reported late last year that the seven interest-rate hikes by the Fed since the inauguration would cost the Trump Organization about $6 million a year on his payments on about $350 million in variable-rate loans he had taken out with Deutsche Bank to develop a golf course outside Miami and hotels in Washington and Chicago. (That’s the same struggling golf course that Trump wants to rent out to the G-7 Summit.)
The variable interest rate on such loans tracks short-term interest rates (such as prime and Libor) that are heavily influenced by the Fed.
The Washington Post confirmed Bloomberg’s story in its own investigation.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reported that Jared Kushner and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump (who also work in the White House) would possibly save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments if the Fed cut rates. According to their financial-disclosure forms, the couple have five variable-rate loans worth at least $17 million and as much as $85 million.
Additionally, it’s not known how much his family business, Kushner Cos., would save with lower rates, because it is not required to disclose its finances. The president’s son-in-law and adviser is still a major stakeholder in the business and would benefit personally from any reduction in interest payments.
The American people should not have to wonder if the president or his close advisers have a conflict of interest. Public policy should be made on the basis of what’s best for the “general welfare” of the people, not the private interests of officials.
That line has been blurred many times in our history, but never with so much open disdain for propriety. Corrupt officials used to hide in shame, but the Trumps celebrate it.
The American economy might benefit from lower interest rates, although I am skeptical that lowering the cost of borrowing would do much to solve the major problem in the economy, which is Trump’s destructive and incoherent trade policies.
Businesses and consumers don’t seem to have many difficulties in obtaining credit. The main trouble is the disruption in imports and exports, and the inability of businesses and consumers to plan ahead.
What the economy really needs is a stable policy for the rules of trade, not a president who changes his mind about tariffs on a daily basis. It needs a president who won’t screw up the good thing that was handed to him.
And most of all, the nation needs leadership that is not corrupt.
One of the causes for the Panic of 1893 can be traced back to Argentina. One of the causes for the Panic of 2019 can be traced back to Argentina, another to Trumps’ Cabinet of Bankers. In 1893 @JPMorgan had to Bail Out the President, this time round it was @DeutscheBank #Panic
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) August 14, 2019
#DidYouKnow MORTGAGE FRAUD – BANK FINES NO JAIL; Including both cash and non-cash consideration such as consumer relief, Bank of America paid $16.65 billion ; J.P. Morgan, $13 billion; Deutsche Bank, $7.2 billion; CORRECTION $0, THE GERMANS SAID HELL NO; THE DON OWES US! #Trump
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) August 12, 2019