« Freakonomics Radio

404. Does the President Matter as Much as You Think?

2020-02-05 | 🔗

We asked this same question nearly a decade ago. The answer then: probably not. But a lot has changed since then, and we’re three years into one of the most anomalous presidencies in American history. So once again we try to sort out presidential signal from noise. What we hear from legal and policy experts may leave you surprised, befuddled — and maybe infuriated.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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more about how there is shaping the future of agriculture visit crop science, dot bear dot com. now that the presidential primaries are finally under way, which means that, rather than taking up ninety percent of your daily news coverage, the election will now take up one hundred percent. There is a question I think It is worth asking, but let me say that You probably won't think this question is worth asking. You'll, probably think this question is dumber than die: a waste of neurons The question we first asked in for land back when George I mean bushes president, then again during the Obama era. Here we are now in the age of Trump with the president he's just been impeached, no less and yet Question we want to ask today. Is this: how much
the president of the United States really matter. I fully recognise this may not sound like sensible question the answers to. Obvious so Why do? I think it's worth asking, because We humans are always so good understanding, cause and effect. Actually you know this we talk all the time on the show about how the relationship between x and why isn't always what it seems? Other It's obvious factors may be important, but emotionally that's it the story. Emotionally, we turn to be drawn to clean, simple explanations of cause and effect, even if the reality is more nuanced, this may be, a form of mythical reductionism. We love our heroes and are villains. So, if you happen to
a particular president, and I ask you how much is the present matter? You'll probably said the present matters very much because its Temple to blame every bad thing you see on this person who seemingly has infinite power and wood happened to love to get a president You may well give the same answer they matter very what you say, because you'll, let all good things all signs of progress to you, president, even if he or she had demonstrably zero to do with a given piece of progress? That said has ever been alive, opportune time to ask the question were asking today: maybe not Donald Trump. Is the most anomalous and divisive? U S, president. In recent years, maybe our entire history. But then again, maybe it's The perfect time to revisit this question. Americans are obsessed with the presidency. We
a ridicule, the british obsession with their monarchy, but is the attention we pay to? The president has in negative attention? Is it really so different considered this? On fact, Gallup Poll every year, asks, Americans to name the man they most admire living anywhere in the world last year there was the Thai between Donald Trump and Brok Obama, whether you love or hate, given in the White House Kepler, so much of our attention that it seems worth asking How much is signal and how much is just noise and much smoke a much fire is the so called either of the free world as Almighty, as we tend to think today. Economics, radio. We put this question to three people. In a good position to answer a law professor who studies central power of all professor, these constitutional ism and a former White House chief economist. We talk about the relative power
or of the government's three branches talk about the evolution the presidency and yes, we talked about Donald Trump One prison and Trump can rightly claim some credit. Now I do think he's unfair. I think it's a lot easier for a present. Few destroy than to create, but before we get started, what do you think if I were to ask you how much? President matters and yes, we could argue forever about what it means to matter. If I ask, do you put a number on from one to ten? What would you say think about it for a second, now keep that number in mind because later on, our experts will each rank the president's power in a variety of key areas. I would give the seven two or three roughly the same, we'll get to all that ran after this,
from stature and Gunnar projections. This is Freakonomics radio broadcasts and explores the inside of everything. Here's your host Stephen Dubner, but Sir the president's role in the economy, and for that we in two Glenn Hubbard, I'm a professor. Financing Economics at Columbia. University cupboard has twice served in government the early nineteen ninetys as deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis in the Treasury, then in the early two thousands I was chairman of the White House, counsel of economic advisers and principal economic effects to the president. That was report Can President George, W Bush later on Hubbard, was chief economic adviser to Mitt Romney on his unsuccessful twenty twelve president? campaign?
I was, and also for job Bush in twenty sixteen. So the question we are asking in this episode is somewhat vague, intentionally or at least open to interpretation. The question is: how much does the play Of the United States Matter, what's the point, the United States matters less and more than people thank less meaning, a low number on a scale to one to ten, because the overall economy is moved by very big factors in technique. Oh and globalization and What means in consumer tastes and so on. President- has more influence than people think in the sense of the very large regulatory and administrative state which report to the president, some very strong, especially the stock markets of labour markets, are relatively strong with slightly higher wage growth and we're about to enter the meat of a new presidential campaign with obviously Trump, as the income
new presidential campaign with obviously Trump as the income and how much credit not will but should trump claim for this state of the economy. Wanting prison and Trump can rightly claim some credit. When the beginning of his presidency happen, there was a shift in business people's expectations about what was possible. There is a sense in which regulation and tax policy were going to become more favourable. Having said that, a lie the factors underlying economic growth happen, whoever the present it is. In terms of Trump Administration, economic policy, everything ranging from the twenty seventeen tax cuts to tariff and trade activity with China and elsewhere I like it and name three things from the Trump Administration that you approve of and three disapprove of in terms of approving,
right at the very beginning, resetting expectations with business people that things were going to be different. The pop in the stock market and growth happened at that time. It was a different economic climate have to give the president credit for that tax. Cutting jobs ACT had many positive features. That's true. Those what necessarily the president's own ideas, but without presidential leadership you don't get a tax bill and then, finally, confronting China at the thirty thousand foot level. I agree with the President right disagree and this would get second, sir. You mention on exactly how he confronted shine. I think there The trade policy has generated significant policy uncertainty. I also bring ministrations views on immigration. I think immigration of big positive for the american economy and the third criticism is more the dog that didn't bark president.
Tromp was elected by a group of people at the margin who felt left behind in the american economy there. So which we need to be doing for these people, and I don't see any action from administration You mentioned the uncertainty over the tariffs and Trade WAR Agus really the big Question is: will the short term pain and cost of the tariffs be worth it in the long run? We think that is the rule question and that's what actually start by giving the president's some credit pre Simonis, Democrat or Republican, had not really can fronted China as the elephant in the room China really use the bad actor on the international economic stage at the President says it is it is? stealing, intellectual property. It is not abiding by the rules of the World Trade Organization. That said, the question is How do you deal with that kind of elephant in the room? I would have thought that
one way to deal with it- would be to get all of our allies together. The European Union, Japan, Canada, others with us to confront fundamentally does it belong in the w g o the World Trade Organization. Sweating tariffs were not. Right to what you're describing is not the Trump way. Plainly correct, well perhaps, but it would be typical. Waiter negotiation you you try to unite your friends and divide your enemies, not the other way around. Why had so many pass president? been reluctant or even impotent, to deal with China in this way. You know, I think dealing with China is. First of all, the a lot of good there with the opening up of I need to the modern world has been the world's greatest anti poverty programme. Tens of millions of chinese citizens have become law, spores result that openness. That is a good thing, and we shouldn't forget it. We also shouldn't forget that many american consumers have benefited a lot from trade with China. The question is strategic:
before the country going forward with a lack of adherence the deputy o rules in the theft of intellectual property, serious enough issues. I think they became more serious and that's why give president tromp some credit in confronting them? So in a Colombia, a business school podcast where you are discussing business leadership. You were asked where stability ranks as a leadership tree, and you said, the leaders first and foremost characteristic is defined illustrating the organizations purpose, but he or she has to be a steady hand, doing that remember people look up to the leader as a symbol of the organization, the job of it it is not to run around with his or her head cut off. Based on that assessment of yours. How would you rate President Trump as a leader of his branch of government, will, I think, president trumps leadership style is different from many leaders and in some respects, he's done a good job. He has articulated some very clear themes and tried to approach them
On the other hand, the vacillation be policy and the policy uncertainty is unsettling just like it would be for leadership, these in a company. So I think, as with many people there, strong leadership traits to be sure, but others that at least I wouldn't chair in that same interview. You said this about politics. My fear is at what point do people lose faith in the government have- and that is something one shouldn't trifle with, because once lost it very hard to get back Glenn. Where do you think the? U S stands now in terms of its is in real faith in its federal government. I think the? U S. Blue. Swaths of it are losing faith in the federal government's ability to solve economic. It can overall domestic and foreign policy problems, and I think that's a problem. Another manifestation of that problem is that the economic system? We have that has delivered
Amazing innovation changes in living standards, not only here but around the world, that Economics This system is not manna from Heaven. Its impart a political and social construct and serve people start to lose faith in the system and in the government that provides reels around? It becomes a first story. Problem. That is my number one concern at the moment it was. Ten years ago that we last asked the square about how much the president matters. Brok. Obama was nearly two years into his first term. He'd had some victories stimulus package and healthcare reform, but in the twenty ten mid term elections the Democrats got slaughtered and lost the house when the people we spoke with for that It was a Cornell law. Professor named Bernadette Mila she specializes in constitution and executive power a conversation started like this. It's a cliche, but the presently the United States,
Its is regularly called the most powerful person on earth. What say you snow. Maybe so, no, basically, there The United States is not the most powerful person. The president's power is constrained in a lot of different ways and the president isn't as significant as Imagine him or her to be a minor has since moved on to Stanford. We got hold of her there and asked whether she still agreed with her ten years ago self. I think that my view has shifted some why it has raised first. I think two things have changed significantly. Wine is that the increases on legislative gridlock have made it even harder to enact a legislative agenda, so presidents have moved towards doing more things through executive orders and sole executive action. Second, lay
fact that the filibuster for judicial nominees and for executive branch nominees was abandoned, which now means that they have their majority is required for confirmation in those positions, has changed the nature of presidential power regarding appointments and significantly increase them our on that no presidential appointments have the president's and their administrations been actively trying to glean more powers at power been transferred or surrender. Through some other consequences. I think it's a combination of the two in terms of the confirmation process that was up to Senate to determine and ultimately they decided to get rid of those filibuster. In that context, I think that was a mistake on the part of the Senate, but that was a legislative action. A quick primer
While the president has the power to nominate federal judges, they must be confirmed by the Senate that used to require a super majority, at least sixty of the one hundred votes in the Senate, but into doesn't thirteen that changed Barack Obama judicial nominees. We're facing republican push back. The Democrats had control of the Senate, but not enough to muster a super majority, so democratic Senate majority leader Harry Red used what had come to be known as the nuclear option. The changes Santa before this institution becomes obsolete. Nuclear option got rid of the rule requiring a super majority now Only a simple majority would be required to confirm all federal judicial nominees, except for the Supreme Court Mitch. Mcconnell, then the Senate minority leader. Here's what he said at the time I do not think other, shall you the regret this
and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think. Indeed, in the next election cycle, the Republicans took control of the sun. And then in two thousand. Sixteen, when the report Donald Trump was elected president. He had the power to confirm judges with a simple majority, and he has been using that power three years into his first term trump has gotten confirmed. Fifty appeals, court judges, Obama on the got fifty five during his entire two terms. One of every four sitting circuit court. Judges is a Trump appointee, and then there is the Supreme Court. Doesn't seventeen Mitch Mcconnell got rid The super majority requirement for that and that's helped make possible the compromise of two Trump nominees to the Supreme Court. Neil Gore such an Brett Cavenaugh, and so as debt, minor argues. Presidential power has certainly increased when it comes to judiciary, appointments, but she says: that's, not
only avenue through which presidential power has been consolidated. Lately Obama, I think, did aggrandize executive power to some extent. He wound up making a lot of determinations through his executive cabinet and the executive branch process. During his two terms, Barack Obama issued two hundred and seventy six executive orders. There is nothing extraordinary about that number George Bush issued two hundred ninety one Bill Clinton to hundred fifty four present tromp Hisself issued, one hundred thirty, eight keeping him roughly on or perhaps a bit ahead of that pace. But there is a great, very Since, in the reach of a given executive order, it can be something as simple as a statement of intention or some sort of ceremonial proclamation, or it can essentially Crete policy without bother going through the legislative branch Obama frustrated with
Publican majority in Congress that he saw as needlessly obstinate. He often chose the ladder. We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we're providing Americans the kind of help that they make. I've got a pen and I've got a phone
Obama's appetite for executive action was fairly omnivorous with respect to climate change, she'd made a lot of executive orders and he also entered the Paris agreements as president, rather than trying to negotiate a treaty which would probably have been impossible. He also extended the deferred action for childhood arrivals programme, which was a decision by the executive branch not too, and for some of the immigration laws against people who had come to the country as children. So I think that Obama did aggregate more power into the executive branch, which then also meant that a lot of his actions could be undone subsequently by President Tromp sue broccoli
is nothing if not a thoughtful and intelligent human. So it's impossible for me to reckon that he wouldn't have thought through the consequences of aggregating, that power through the use of executive orders and sole executive action and so on. So what do you think was the plan
and there or the idea. I think, that's a fascinating question, and it's something that I have thought a bit about. One thing that he said with respect to the affordable care act is that it established a baseline, and I think his view was that you couldn't kind of go back from that baseline. I think that was the motivation behind presenting something like talk or entering into the Paris agreement. I think his view was that these baselines would be very hard to dial back. It hasn't really proved as hard as I think he imagined. I definitely think it has increased the extent to which Trump could claim some form of bipartisan legitimacy for his action that he can claim that he's just acting as a democratic president. What I had- and I think that's particularly the case with something
Dhaka where he can say. Well, I don't think it was constitution in the first place, I'm gonna get rid of it and I'm not exercising extra discretion, and it's just what Obama had done previously and another example that occurs to me is the now a monument, so he reduce the national monuments in Utah, more than any president, has reduced national monuments previously and his claim was well. It was just some more credit President Clinton and Obama who created these large monuments and prevented people in Utah from using their land in the way that they would have she was so I'm just undoing the wrong that these earlier precedence dead. I'd like you to compare president trumps, declarations of intent, whether they were things he said during the campaign or during his time in office with his actual accomplishments. I
generally I tried to do the things that he claimed he would do he's. Definitely me id immigration, a big hinge of his presidency, as he had said, he why'd, I think he's lived off to promises to the coal plants and various other energy industry constituencies to dial back environment. Regulation and then also on the tax fronts. He managed to undermine the affordable care out through the law that was passed out to get rid of basically the tax that would have supported the affordable care acts and how typical would you say that is for recent president's again the gap between declarations of intent and accomplishments, I would say, he's been average. I dont feel that he has been extraordinarily effective. He had touted passing
of laws early in his presidency. But the Pew Foundation did a study and showed that, while the number of laws were greater than the prior Congress. A lot of those laws were symbolic ends There weren't that many major legislative accomplishments. It strikes me that Trump kind of has put the bully back in the boat I'll bet that be know, he's behaving kind of demonstratively in ways that past Is it in in a long time- and I am curious Europe who's on that. Yes, I love this metaphor of the valley pop out of the fight to trap. I would not without a fat, I pay it. I guess I completely agree. He has put the boy back in Bali puppet. My feeling is that there could be ape
positive dimension to reinvigorating, though symbolic and the rhetorical power of the presidency. Now I mean I really dislike everything that Trump does and all his tweets and access by the way that he managed to actually use social media to galvanise people and to try to unify, has based around an agenda. I think, is instructive for other potential leaders. I think one problem with President Obama strategy was that he didn't really appeal enough to people and to people's ordinary moral intuitions in order to get them to support his agenda. I think people felt that his present, as he was too bureaucratic or to take,
Craddock, so that he wasn't really taking advantage of the possibility of galvanizing a public. Just for the historical record, I want to clarify something here. It was President Teddy Roosevelt, who coined the phrase bully pulpit as a description of the presidency and resort to great delight in using the bully pulpit, but back then the word bully had an additional usage as an adjective that men good or even great. That's what Roosevelt men, by calling the presidency a bully pulpit that it was a great platform to get things done. Not that you could who is the presidency to bully people into submission gang if you could just in a nutshell, tell us the president has the greatest leverage in which realms and the weakest, or at least leverage in which realms? I would say the present- has the greatest leverage when you're dealing with foreign affairs so
That's one reason why he could get out of the Paris agreements that he negotiating of various ways with other trade with China, about tariffs and- area is in the administrative state and there is not only by direct command, but also by retaining the power to fire people and the Supreme Court has gradually in making the president's power over subordinates in the administrative branch more plenary and saying that, if not constitutional, to restrict in various ways and then another prominent area in the trumpet minister, and would be the power of pardoning, which he's been using, think great strategic advantage. Can the president constant
crucially pardon him or herself, if required. I don't think so. I think that goes back to a limitation, implicit in the concept of pardoning itself, which has to do with the common law. Precept that you can the judge in your own case? Ok and then some rooms in which the president may be weaker than the average person might think. So one really important Rome is with respect tab. Budgeting Congress really is acknowledged, have the power of the poorest, and that does constrain what the executive branch can do. One example: I think, where a trump attempted to make a strong push for greater executive power is with respect to the National emergencies act. When Congress refused to grant him the money to build his border wall, he decided to appropriate the money from the defence budget and transfer that money under a claim of authority through the national.
Since act, even though Congress had pretty explicitly said that they didn't want to give him money for that project. So one hallmark of the shrimp presidency has been deregulation and he argued that one Mark of the Obama administration was heavy regulation. So can you talk for a moment about the degree of power or leverage in the realm of regulation for president's again, whether through of order or legislation war, just not enforcing existing regulations. So I think it's a lot easier, fer a precedent to destroy than to create, and few undo prior actions, then to pass new agenda proactively. I think sent Trump has benefited a lot from not enforcing thanks the example that comes to mind for me as the affordable care act, where, it took Obama so much political energy and well to pass the affordable care act. And that was me
and I would say, regulatory reform of his administration, whereas it doesn't take up much too, not enforce the law its provisions so of the three branches of government which would you argue, has gained the most power and lost the most power over the past? Let's say two decades. I think that the judiciary has gained the most power really because with the impasse in the legislative branch, almost all questions of significance are getting decided by the judiciary.
And it means that Congress lacks the ability to really override judicial decisions, because they just can't agree on enough. So, for example, with a lot of these, a ministry of questions previously Congress might have been able to say clarify the meaning of a statute that, in a ministry of Agency, is implementing by passing some kind of further legislation. But now they are not really able to do that. So most of these questions, why, that getting resolved ultimately by the Supreme Court. No, I know that you personally clerks sometime back. I believe it was four did Robert Catchment in the? U S, court of appeal. Second circuit, is that right, yes, Sir, assure me that you are not exercising your personal judiciary bias in claiming that the judiciary gain the most leverage over the past six years. The claim that this is an unbiased
assessment of the three branches in the judiciary is getting even more than the executive. Yes, I think so, yes, and I mean I actually wish it weren't. They k S because There was a whole movement and constitutional law to dissent or courts, and actually Obama was obviously a constitutional law. Professor before we heard president- and he was, I think, on board with a lot of the idea about bringing the legislator branch and the executive more into the realm of constitutional interpretation and de centering course, and I think that's why he partly didn't prioritized judicial nominations. But my senses at that, but just pragmatically, was a mistake because in fact the courts have wound up, being the branch to decide on a lot of things precisely because the other branches just can't get along well enough. That was brooded admirer of constitutional law, Professor Stanford, after the brig, another law
professor, but this one thinks it's the presidency, not the judiciary. It's been amassing more power there certain elements of dictatorship in it it's coming up in a minute. If you we hear some ours episodes of ours about the political system. You might try number three, fifty six America's hidden do or for to two fifty five ten ideas to make public less rotten, you listen if we can I'm Radio Stephen Donor, we will be right back freedom with radio sponsored by patenting hidden in each cubic yard of air. Thousands of I allergens, you can't see them, but your surrounded, your eyes, its non stop and rub them all day, but now relief is just one drop away. Today once daily relief contains the number one prescribed, allergy it relief ingredient. One drop once a day works fast, lasts all day, turn Europe
Did she allergy idea into a payday now available without a prescription everywhere everybody, Antique Sumter and I'm an actress, and most recently you can see me on ABC mixed fish. I this is tie off and I'm the boss, a cabin hearts left out loud network and we the host of the sugar, a sweet space where we are she to indulge on topics we sometimes get left out of its face by bore and about brown mom. This is a place of community where we want you to feel lots of love, peace and laughed aloud I was pregnant someone- those I oh when our hair, when I was in labour, I was like I was having a orgasm grow airs go now, some of you now somewhere baling. Maybe with our sweet sugar moment, like us to see ourselves and be our cells, get ready to open up top laugh even cry with
sweet shook him the ship is out now listen on stitches apple podcast, cast wherever you get your pat gas, So when we last spoke, the topic was whether the U S presidency, had the calmer was on its way to becoming a dictatorship or something similar to that. I love you quickly summarize your view back then my view. Back then was that we had developed a system of, but I prefer to call presidential Primacy- certain elements of dictatorship in it, in the sense that the president, has primary authority to determine policy wide variety of areas, and I think this is Some that's evolved over two centuries. It's not the system that the founders gave us Eric post is a law professor at the University of Chicago
our yes, but he was weary of how much power the executive branch drew back into. Doesn't sixteen for episode called? Has the? U S, presidency become a dictatorship, His answer wasn't hard. Yes, but he was weary of how much power the executive branch had been accruing. So would you say that the intensity or level of what your calling the primacy has increased state for the same or diminished. Roughly the same network also should say when we spoke a bit over three years ago. We had a good bit conversation about Donald Trump, but it was all theoretical, because was highly highly unlikely at the time are thought to be highly unlike that he would be elected, so I just love to hear you minute on how surprised you were and how that perhaps changed the way that you thought about this question largely. I was surprised
and how is it changed the way I think about the question. Well, let's separate you know too the dimensions of the question one is we know what is the system that we have and the other is, should we change? I think the system that we have- It is the same as it was before the Trump became president and I am more worried now than I was before he became president- that the public would have people who are unfit to be president so, in that sense, my view has changed to some extent the implications that you believe he is unfit to be present in Irma Overreaching. Now I do think is unfair, so here's my theory is that the present matters much less than most people think chiefly because the president's ability to make substantial changes that directly affect our lives. Daily lives is, in most cases limited
or indirect. Plainly you'd disagree, give me an example or two of where I'm wrong. Well, you know, I think, part of the problem is what does it mean to matter that success tricky, and I agree with you, for example, that the as an can't come in and you know, revolutionise our system can't make the on two may grow much faster, orb the recession, but where the business matters, for example, law enforcement, priority is, whether the police, though after a drug users or drug dealers, immigration policy, as we have seen recently so, if you're in America the citizen and all of your friends and family and others are Americans, you might not notice the effect that the press can have on aliens Weather you know you're lawfully or not, but that's a pretty big- affect the prison.
Can have and then in the area of foreign policy, as we have seen recently, the president can really change things very rapidly. If I were to ask you to break, down the job of president into the major domains, would you label them foreign powers, see as one domain. Maybe look. The economy, the other men chairman of the executive branch is maybe third dimension and then do wanna have another basket that something like Stick affairs, everything non economic- we could have a basket further in a lot of people, put a lot of weight on the president's appointment of judges, which is outside the executive branch, so let's go through in and let's start with the economy. If I were to just ask you
the three plus years at present, Trump has been in office. How much his actions have affected, what we call the economy and what specifically he's done? Let me just ask you to speak on that forbids the corporate tax could probably provide short term boost of no real lasting value, but that had an effect on people to deal regulation that is engaging in probably why and have a measurable effect on the economy, but will affect people's lives in particular, ease, been dismantling regulations that were designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so long term effective that you know it meaning for, and then I think this ridiculous a trade war he started has generated uncertainty and, of course, has increased costs for imported products. Would you have predicted that
the markets and the economy generally, as evidenced by unemployment, would be as healthy as they are and if not what they say about either his leverage or maybe just Our inability to predict anything. You don't think that's where established in the literature that generally the economy does what it does and presidents affected only on the margin in the case of the day, regulatory actions, and I told you about well. Very few of them have actually been put into effect their working their way through the bureaucracy there being challenged by courts. I should also say that the pause, the fact of deregulation will be you know, pure economic indicators, but there will be. You know non economic harms that aren't going to show up in some kind I gotta get measure like GDP or something like that, so if we're going to have you no more greenhouse gas emissions, they're gonna show up ten twenty two years from now when The climate is somewhat hotter than it would be. Otherwise. Ok, let's talk about
Foreign affairs than name some signature. Decisions moves or non moves that President Trump has made withdraw from the Paris eighty disengagement from six already arrangements with foreign countries, the beginning of the trade war, and cutting back on refugees. Other types of immigration. And you didn't even get into North Korea, IRAN. Venezuela, Israel right in those cases is sort of foundering around more. It's a little unclear. What he's trying to accomplish so the impeachment of present chump has revolved around his withholding. Foreign aid to Ukraine? What can you tell us about the presents unilateral ability to manage foreign aid? Foreign aid is dead by Congress, but the president has power to withhold it. Typically, the way these things work as with if Congress. Wants to do something with respect. To form
relations, it will pass our saying you know we want twice. Eda happened, but then there are almost always be a provision that says that if the president thinks its national, try not to do this. He can do that. The constitution is, extremely vague about where foreign policy powers are located. It gives the president the commander in chief power, not clear whether that means only the delete the army or whether something broader than that. So this vagueness was taken advantage of by Prs events over the many years that followed and they basically claimed more our power over foreign policy in Congress acquiesced. Let's move on do as you put it management of the executive branch. What falls Thirdly, on the label of management of Executive branch appointed, agencies there, much stricter than they used to be any standards through dozens of, I guess: executive orders or regulatory
much media attention, but he's really changed the priorities of the various immigration agencies there much struck than they used to be and done this through dozens of, I guess, Beckett orders or regulatory, actions one Trump executive order. They got a lot of attention and push back was the so called muslim immigration ban. It effectively directed the department, only insecurity to refuse entry into the Eu S of Nationals from IRAN, Iraq, Livia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen Initially, the lower courts struck down because it was in a kind of stupid he revised it. The revision include some countries that warrant predominantly muslim, North Korea and Venezuela truck it down again and they were reversed by the Supreme Court. I think most legal scholars were surprised that tromp had as much trouble as he did, because there is a statute that says that the present
can pretty much block any one from entering into the country. For any reason, you know if he believes that it is, answers national security. Next asked Eric POE the same question I had asked Bernadette Minor about Trump in the power of the bully pulpit, the bully pulpit as extreme, the important it's the way that the President gets the public behind him and he needs the public behind him to get Congress to act. The present really wants to have a significant long term impact. It is to what he can do unilaterally, but if he has the public behind him, he can the Congress to pass laws, but there's a big difference between the way trumpet The bully pulpit- and I am, I think, really all previous president's all previous President'S- I'm gonna hazard, they the boy pulpit to try to unify the country. You know they try to convince the public that some new power see, serves everybody's interests and everybody should support it. Try
does not like that? He uses the bully Popa to divide people. Immigration is unimportant but where he despair just not only undocumented immigrants, also more broadly Hispanics Muslims from other countries and no winking way, sometimes signal support for white nationalists or white supremacist, so as you speaking there may be in history. One more basket of President elect cavities it we're ranking. You know this precedent- has been aggressive, not just in law which would inaction, as have other presidents, to be fair. But this present has gotten inside the head of a lot of people he's done many things to create. Anxiety and anger. So if we were to consider presidential behaviour or carriage another category, how much do you think that really matters no they're. All these people who go back and rate presidents and and pay
of even raided, you know, have virtuous there how honest they are and so forth? And you know the worst president's a warrant Harding for example, then not in trumps. League Harding was kind a week laying who we know didn't try to stop up to other corrupt people in his cabinet. Whence he knew about it, but he wasn't. You know a dishonest person in his private life. He was in a just pretty much an ordinary politician, and so we ve got some I am in the presidency, whose is a wire minos. Dishonest tubes is it is a philanderer. Some presidents have been like that, but not that many. What effect does it have, It makes a lot of people angry should sort of contributes to the polarization does it damaged. As an some long term way. Maybe I'm not sure about that So, let's maybe we should call this category virtue, giving its substantial enough to be separate. You're not quaint, I think it. It deserves its own category because it's important to distinguish two
from any old regular review what can president's republican presence come into office? They cut taxes they deregulate and in many specks he's no different from that, but in this special care, Mary, what he does and all the other categories is he warps public policy? to advance his narrow political interests at the expense of his political opponents, in a way that that's a damaging. So here are a couple sentences that euro not long ago, it is critical to distinguish trumped bark from his bite. He has to say urged judges called the media, the enemy of the people, praised torture and compare the intelligence community to Nazis, but he has not followed up on these statements. You re, unlike Franklin D, Roosevelt. He hasn't tried to pack the Supreme Court, not that trump needs to you added. Unlike Barack Obama, you wrote he hasn't. Parenthesis, yet targeted journalists in leak investigations, unlike George W Bush Euro, he hasn't actually take
page from the Nazis, by ordering the intelligence community to use coercive interrogation so again thinking in terms of leverage or how much the president matters. It sounds like you're describing someone: that's positioning themselves as an attack dog, but is actually a watchdog, if not a lap dog, I wouldn't call her temper lap dog trumps, most aggressive behaviour, I think, has been In international relations, he's really attacked a bipartisan consent. Thus in favour of free trade, a mirror can military engagement and, in fact, Republicans to be other muted as unhappy about this, as as Democrats are from just a the narrowly constitutional perspective he he does seem less aggressive than then his predecessors, which is not as MR, all that he's a better president. I think he's far
than any of his predecessors, but in a way that this but my point has been long which, as you know, the present We we like often are the really powerful ones who break the rules, because those rules are out of date and old fashioned reflect value that we no longer agree with let's say a given person, the Trump is as bad as President Ets, as could possibly exist. Give, the norms of american politics, even if you believe that and then you look around the how the country is now and probably will be in five and ten years. Can you really The argument that the president's him off or self matters so much because if one believes this is the worst president ever shouldn't, the country have for much much more already or perhaps your arguing it may, and we can't tell yet will you
he can be the worst president ever without being. You know infinitely worse than the second worst road being a bad present. Is me? No? Not this thing is having an impact, so you could say a someone's, the worst present ever and still think the presence and general don't have much of an impact, and we could president who is like a declared fascist who you know, still accomplish very much it just sort of hard to say in the abstract what it means to have an impact. And if you think, for example, that climate change, as you know, the absolutely most essential issue of our time and what tromp has done is moved us back several years at a really. Or in time then maybe he will be the worst and most consequential president ever. But if you don't climate change in a rises to that level of importance, then he'll seem like had less of an impact, but there are other variables in that formula. For instance, club
The change it seems is starting to be addressed aggressively and often well, by technological solutions and through that are the result of millions of people working on thousands of different projects. Obviously, as you can do something about that, for good could also do something about it for ill. But again it comes act to meet the leverage of this one person or this one office. It very comforting to think that one person can make things great or terrible, goes back to. Let me know. Thomas Carlyle was greatly and fury of history, and I think there is a kind of religious connotation there, when we signed that much power to one person or one office, I think it in some way alleviate some of the pressure responsibility for ourselves as individuals, but I'm perfectly satisfied with you not buying that one iota. No, I think good people are worried about the past, thing to her phone and don't take comfort in the idea that one person, for example,
destroy the entire world I want a nuclear war, so I'm not sure I do with you. If the question is, you know how much affair Can the national government, whether controlled by the as an or someone else realistically have unpeopled wives. Her? I don't even know how to begin to answer that question I mean it could if it wanted to destroy everybody's life. But if we look throughout history it out Sometimes it's had enormous effect, and sometimes it's had no effect, and I guess I find it hard to assign a number in the abstract but we did ask Eric Posner and Bernadette Miller and Glenn Hubbard, to assign a number on scale of one to ten for how much the President called matters for each of the major domains we ve been talking about today, you'll hear Posner. First, then minor, then Hubbard will start with the economy. Three,
seven. Only when the and the President matters six or seven for the economy, how about foreign policy was called seven eight. Foreign policy. The president matters nine to ten management of the executive branch. That's got six eight for management of the executive branch. I would put the president's five to six. It the president's branch, but so much of that management is done by cabinet officers, control over the judiciary. Seven eight eight to ten, the president is fortunate enough to have a Senate that agrees with him or her than that's control about domestic affairs, including the bully, pulpit. Nine two or three I would give. Seven, I think economists might generally say not so important, but I would say yes, important people look to a leader as again did of mood of of what's going on in the country. That will be true, and
the organization and finally, as we agree, to call the final category virtue. Eight, I would say nine. I would give it a seven. I think. Virtue. Two matters a lot, certainly matters a lot to me personally, but I can also think of which was president's that won't terribly factor, for instance Jimmy Carter, and can you think of people who are little scoundrels on the virtues scale that were very effective president's. I would put Richard Nixon in that category and where you put Clinton in that category,. Clinton, would definitely be ineffective. Person who had some virtue challenges if you were to assume equal weighting of all the categories, terrible idea, if you're trying to come up with a remotely scientific answer, which this is not, you would find Posner saying the President matters about sixty two thirds on a scale of one to ten The debt minor a hare above seven in Glenn Hubbard,
just shy of seven and a half so fairly. Distant rankings from our experts, although quite a lot of inconsistency with in categories, but also that- Where is fairly well short of a nine or ten rank which is to say that yes, the presidency, the United States is an obviously powerful position with more power having a crude, perhaps in recent decades, but is it possible that maybe just maybe some of us, sometimes slightly over emphasised just how much leverage the president hands, I'm gonna, let you that question for yourself once you ve, come down a bit drop us Align radio at freak, now dot com tell us just how infuriating this episode was. But you try to come down a bit first because things are only going to get rock year through election day, and these new evidence suggests the elections are particularly difficult for a lot of people? The economy
hung how Chang in Chad, Meyerhoff her in a working paper called do election make you sick found that healthcare use expenditure rose nearly twenty percent during NASH, presidential elections in Taiwan. So take care of yourself coming up next time, free, comics radio? There might be something that you think would be great, but it's never gonna be able to be implemented in the real world. Ideas that look rate and academic research don't always take how you do it on a small scale in perfect conditions is very different than the messy real world and why It's important to fix this problem. I want polish science not to be an oxymoron. That's next time freedom of Radio freedom of trade produced
I sticker and W productions. This episode was produced by Zack Le Pen ski our staff also includes Allison, credible red ribbon met Hickey Deaf, each can carry Huggins and Wallace in turn, Isabel, o Brien. Our theme song is Mr Ford, by the takes all the others was composed by Luis Scare. You, economics radio in on any pod cast up. If you want the entire back catalogue use. The stitched up poor go to reconnect dot. We also publish transcripts and show notes for economic theory. Also plays on many NPR stations. So if you live in America check your local list, were also on the NPR one app. As always, thanks for listening teacher.
Transcript generated on 2020-04-03.