Predictions are hard, especially about the future of the Trump administration.
Will his team of economic nationalists, who want to impose tariffs and increase infrastructure spending, get their way, or will it be his gang of economic conservatives, who want to cut taxes for the rich, cut spending for the poor, and deregulate Wall Street? Yes.
Trump isn’t so much ideologically flexible as he is ideologically fluid. He has no idée fixe other than appearing strong, especially in the eyes of cable TV pundits. Sometimes that will mean going along with what Congressional Republicans want – gridlock is for the weak – but most of the time that will mean getting Congressional Republicans to go along with him.
Which is to say that we should take his policy promises both seriously and literally. He’s going to try to do what he’s said he will, no matter how inconsistent those things might seem together.
What, then, might be the economic consequences of President-elect Trump’s tax cuts, tariffs and deregulation? Well, as we’ll get to in a minute, they sure seem like they’d raise the odds of a financial crisis happening overseas, and maybe here too. It’s a story about the dollar and housing.
The first thing you need to know is that the rest of the world has borrowed a lot of dollars the last eight years. About US$4 trillion, to be exact. Since 2008, dollar loans to non-bank borrowers outside the United States have gone from US$6 trillion to almost US$10 trillion, with emerging markets making up the majority of that increase. Their dollar debts, according to the Bank for International Settlements, have actually more than doubled during this time from US$1.7 trillion to US$4.5 trillion. And that makes them particularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the currency markets.