×

Donald Trump’s Economic Team Is Far From Typical

Donald Trump, laying out his economic plan on Monday in Detroit, said that the nation must "stop relying on the tired voices of the past." In what would seem to be yet another jab at Hillary Clinton, he added, "We can't fix a rigged system by relying on the people who rigged it in the first place."

Perhaps that's the best explanation for his recently released list of economic advisers — a list that has caused a bit of head-scratching in financial circles, given that it is largely devoid of names of heavyweight economists who have backed Republican party nominees in years past. (And entirely devoid of women.)

Instead, his economic circle — as he promised — is a bit, shall we say, less typical. The prominent of the not-so-prominent list of economists includes only one Ph.D., Peter Navarro, a professor at the University of California, Irvine and longtime opponent of free trade who blames China for America's economic ills; Stephen Moore, a flat-tax advocate who co-founded the anti-tax group Club for Growth; and David Malpass, a consultant and former chief economist at Bear Stearns.

Donald Trump
Getty Images
Donald Trump

The group is heavy on moguls and would-be moguls — all, of course, Trump donors. Among them are Steven Roth, a real estate mogul who owns a building with Mr. Trump; Harold Hamm, the billionaire wildcatter; John A. Paulson, the billionaire hedge fund manager; Steve Feinberg, the co-founder of Cerberus, the private equity firm; and Dan DiMicco, former president and chief executive of the steel company Nucor Corporation, who has been vocal about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

More from The New York Times:
Trump's Economic Team: Bankers and Billionaires (and All Men)
Donald Trump, Hoping to Change Subjects, Says He Will Bring Prosperity
Can Clinton or Trump Recapture Robust American Growth?

Wilbur Ross, the famed venture capitalist, was left off the original list but later added on Trump's website; Mr. Ross said that his team hadn't gotten back to the candidate in time to be included last week.

And for those keeping score, Carl Icahn, the activist investor and longtime Trump backer, said he was left off the list so he could start a "super PAC," which he said would not be allowed if he were a formal member of the campaign.

Then again, Mr. Trump has made a virtue of his lack of traditional support, depicting himself as an anti-establishment candidate willing to make difficult choices. He sent a tweet saying as much earlier this week, showing a picture of him and Ms. Clinton under the headline "Campaign Contributions from Hedge Funds." It showed Ms. Clinton received $48.5 million from the hedge fund industry while Mr. Trump received only $19,000. "Crooked Hillary Clinton is 100% owned by her donors," he wrote.

The tweet and his economics council are a bit of mixed message, given that he is trying to raise money from the financial industry and clearly has some support — even some from traditional Republican circles. On Monday, for instance, George P. Bush, the son of Jeb (who is anti-Trump) came out in favor of the Republican candidate, urging all party members to support Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump's challenge is he is trying to be two things at the same time: distinctly anti-elite yet absolutely elite. This is particularly tough given he wants to be seen as a successful billionaire businessman while also being an outsider trying to work for the little guy.

That said, while Mr. Trump may relish his unconventional group, he has been quietly trying to get some more establishment voices to join him.

But many of the most prominent Republican donors have been doing their best to avoid associating with him. Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder of the Blackstone Group, met with Mr. Trump, but has so far refused to donate or publicly support him, according to people briefed on the meeting.

Henry Kravis, who historically has voted for Republicans and donated money to them, has been relatively silent. (When Mr. Trump floated his name for Treasury secretary, Mr. Kravis said, "That was scary when he said that.")

Ken Griffin, the founder of Citadel, would seem like a natural Trump supporter, given that he describes himself as a "Reagan Republican." He has donated to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, but not to Mr. Trump.

Cliff Asness, the billionaire founder of AQR, an investment management firm, has historically supported Republicans, but called Mr. Trump "a disaster for the G.O.P. and for the country." In March, he seemed to bend a little, saying, "I have to keep a more open mind," but his spokesman said on Monday that he hadn't changed his position.

Paul Singer, one of the biggest Republican donors, has been part of the #NeverTrump campaign, saying his policies would be "a guarantee of a global depression."

The list goes on. Seth Klarman, who runs the hedge fund Baupost, has often supported Republicans even though he is an independent. Last week he issued a blistering statement about Mr. Trump while throwing his weight behind Mrs. Clinton.

"His words and actions over the last several days are so shockingly unacceptable in our diverse and democratic society that it is simply unthinkable that Donald Trump could become our president," Mr. Klarman said.

Traditional Republican economists have also kept their distance. Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia Business School, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, wrote, "The anti-trade and anti-immigration policies of Mr. Trump portend a slower-growth future for all Americans, and middle- and lower-income Americans in particular."

Greg Mankiw, a Harvard economist who succeeded Mr. Hubbard as chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers and also advised Mitt Romney, said of Mr. Trump: "He will not be getting my vote. I have Republican friends who think that things couldn't be worse than doubling down on Obama policies under Hillary Clinton. And, like them, I am no fan of the left's agenda of large government and high taxes. But they are wrong: Things could be worse. And I fear they would be under Mr. Trump."

Mr. Ross, a Trump supporter, said he thought the candidate's economic speech in Detroit on Monday might prove to be a positive turning point. "He did a very good job," Mr. Ross said after the speech. "If he just stuck to that, he'd be in a lot better shape."

Mr. Ross called Mr. Trump "substantive" and said he was particularly impressed by "the whole way he reacted to the staged demonstrators." It was "mature" of Mr. Trump to refrain from taking the bait and getting angry, Mr. Ross said.

The question is, if Mr. Trump adjusts his behavior over the next several weeks, will some of those establishment names come join his anti-establishment band?