The Trump Dollar
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Is it possible that come election day, the Trump Dollar will be the weakest dollar in American history? At the rate at which things have been going, it would be unwise to rule out the prospect. The value of a one-dollar Federal Reserve note has plunged to under a 1,740th of an ounce of gold. That’s a 31% drop in the three and a half years that President Trump has been in office. If the greenback plunges another 8.5%, the aforementioned ignominy is at hand.
We’ve been thinking about this since we received the column from gold standard advocate John Mueller that is published in the adjacent space. He cites the wisdom of Jacques Rueff, the great French free market economist. Rueff is now gone, alas, but his ideas are getting a new look as the value of the dollar plunges. Particularly because there’s a sense that our economy hasn’t fully digested the dislocations caused by the coronavirus bailouts and related spending and borrowing.
This is not, moreover, merely a matter of medicine. Since the coronavirus burst onto the national consciousness, the value of the dollar is down about 12%. Yet the collapse in the value of the dollar on Mr. Trump’s watch seems, in the main, to be a function of the frantic effort of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to keep the stock market — and other measures of American prosperity and prospects — pointing in an optimistic direction.
This isn’t entirely President Trump’s fault. The power to coin money and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, is granted in the Constitution solely to Congress. The Congress has shifted the blame to the Federal Reserve. Mr. Trump, though, has egged on the Fed. He has done little to warn that value is slipping from the dollar. Nor are the Democrats any better. On the contrary, they, too, have been even more eager to spend and borrow.
Let us not underestimate the matter. When, in December 2005, these columns first warned of the collapse of the dollar, the greenback had lost close to half — 47% — of its value just since the start of the presidency of Bush ’43. We said then that were we president (a stretch, to be sure, we acknowledged) the thing we’d be worried about was less the war than the dollar. Three years later, and, whammo, the Great Recession was upon us. It tarnished the entire Obama presidency.
We have a similar sense of the situation now. The lockdown is no doubt serious, but we wouldn’t lose sight of the dollar. What is its collapse signaling about the direction of our economy? What is Mr. Trump’s strategic goal in respect of monetary policy — and his own legacy? The value of the dollar soared 23.4% under President George H. W. Bush, 24.2% under President Clinton, and 38.8% under President Reagan, all periods of admirable economic growth.
Does Mr. Trump want to be among them, or does he prefer to be in the camp with Presidents Obama and George W. Bush? Under the latter presidencies, the dollar collapsed by, respectively, 28.9% and a staggering 68.9%. We don’t buy the libel that Mr. Trump fails to understand all this. Or that he is indifferent to the fact that the platform on which he stood for the presidency included a promise to establish a monetary commission to start work on reform.
We understand that the dollar has been holding up in respect of other fiat currencies. In the past we have compared that illusion to an airplane passenger who is on an airplane that suddenly starts losing altitude and who takes comfort from the fact that the passenger sitting across the aisle is also losing altitude. We understand that even in a classical gold standard, the price of gold can fluctuate. A sustained drop in the value of the dollar, though, in our estimate needs to be addressed.
In that respect, it looks to us like Mr. Trump is approaching a moment of truth. He has yet to address the gap between his platform promises of 2016 on monetary reform and his current policies. The exigencies of the pandemic will cover some sins. Not all of them. The latest sounding by Rasmussen suggests that on the economy, voters repose more confidence in Vice President Biden. Could that be because the classical value of America’s dollar has been plunging?