Conservative television commentator Larry Kudlow is a leading candidate to become chairman President-elect Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, which is usually run by one of the nation’s most prestigious economists.
Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation and an adviser to Trump, told a Lansing, Mich., business group Thursday that Kudlow would be named to the post, though Moore later added that the nomination “isn’t a done deal,” according to the Detroit News. A person close to the transition told The Post that Trump is trying to find a space for Kudlow, a Trump friend and loyal adviser during the campaign, in an economic advisory role.
If selected, Kudlow would mark another unorthodox pick for Trump. Under both Republican and Democratic presidents, the council has provided expert economic advice to the president and attracts a staff of top-flight young economists. But Kudlow lacks a graduate or undergraduate degree in economics and has not written scholarly papers on the subject.
A fervent supporter of deep tax cuts, Kudlow is a senior contributor at CNBC and former host of the cable channel’s prime-time “The Kudlow Report.” While continuing with his broadcasts, he informally advised Trump during the campaign. Like Moore, Kudlow disagrees with Trump about trade and opposes protectionism, but shares the president-elect’s desire to slash tax rates for businesses.
“He should have hammered much harder on his tax cuts,” Kudlow said of Trump’s performance in one of the debates with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “It’s been the Kudlow theory of debates for a long time that no matter what you are asked, you give the answer you want to give on the subject you want. Trump needs to learn more about that.”
A graduate of the University of Rochester, where he joined the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society and majored in history, Kudlow worked as a junior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then as chief economist first at Paine Webber and later at Bear Stearns.
He became associate director for economics and planning in the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. A star in the conservative firmament, Kudlow later advised Jack Kemp and toyed with the idea of running for the Senate.
But his career was derailed two decades ago by alcohol and drug addiction, and he took a long leave of absence starting in late 1992 to attend a twice-daily program to help addicts.
In recent years, he has become a popular figure on television, but his record as an economic forecaster is full of potholes.
Less than nine months before the economic crisis hit in 2008, Kudlow wrote in the National Review: “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that’s a minimum). Goldilocks is alive and well. The Bush boom is alive and well. . . . Yes, it’s still the greatest story never told.”
Earlier, in 2005, he made fun of people worried about inflated housing prices, calling them “bubbleheads.”
John Glidden Jr., a friend of Kudlow’s since middle school, said that “Larry, most of his life, was a very high-strung individual, very bright.” He added that Kudlow “always wanted to be involved, always wanted to be in the right circles.”
In high school at the Englewood School for Boys in New Jersey, Glidden and Kudlow were friends and rivals. Glidden described Kudlow as a civil but “dogged” partner in speech and debate, who could argue liberal and conservative cases with equal cogency. In their senior year, the two played a match for the top slot on the school’s tennis team. Kudlow won.
Both boys’ fathers were prominent Republicans in Englewood, successful men who expected success from their sons as well.
“I’m the same way,” said Glidden, now a senior vice president at Gates Capital and the mayor of the borough of Closter, N.J. “It’s something we had in common. I think it’s something that was instilled in us, the way we were both brought up.”
In the high-rolling and hard-partying atmosphere of Wall Street, Glidden suggested, Kudlow’s desire to be in the middle of action might have led him into addiction.
Yet Glidden said his friend has been sober for about two decades and that his experience in finance would make up for his lack of economic training.
“He licked it. I’m proud of him,” he said. “He’s going to do a good job. He’s the right guy at the right time.”
Kudlow has linked the economy’s performance to moral values, and he has blamed inequality on poor broken families.
“If we stick with what I call first principles, which is morality and ethics, some spiritual guideline which was present at the creation with the founders . . . then this country is unstoppable,” Kudlow wrote in a 1998 book titled “American Abundance: The New Economic and Moral Prosperity.” “We are the city on the hill.”
Some economists were shocked by the possibility of Kudlow’s appointment, news of which came the same day Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers issued its annual report. Created by the Employment Act of 1946, the council last year marked its 70th anniversary, noting its “distinctive role” in “applying economic theory and empirical research to the often-novel situations in which policymakers find themselves.”
The past chairs have included Harvard professor Martin Feldstein, who served under Reagan; Columbia business school dean Glenn Hubbard, who served under President George W. Bush; University of California at Berkeley professor Christina D. Romer; and later Federal Reserve chiefs Benjamin S. Bernanke, Janet Yellen and Alan Greenspan.
Kudlow, by comparison, has not done any comparable research, though he is much more famous by dint of his television career.
William D. Nordhaus, a Yale economic professor and a member of President Jimmy Carter’s Council of Economic Advisers, said, “Since President-elect Trump apparently doesn’t listen to the professionals at intelligence agencies, why should he listen to professional economists?”