By Matt O’Brien
The Washington Post
In the end, it doesn’t look like President Donald Trump is going to get the partisan cheerleader he wanted on the Federal Reserve. The one, that is, who didn’t have any relevant qualifications, who had supported the discredited idea that is the gold standard and who had faced numerous questions about his personal life . . .
Come to think of it, that dismal list of attributes is somehow not specific enough to tell you which of Trump’s Fed picks we’re talking about here. That’s because, while Herman Cain’s nomination looks like it’s getting quashed before ever becoming official, the description above would have applied equally well to Trump’s other recent Fed selection, Stephen Moore.
That’s clear enough if you just compare the two. Cain was a pizza executive turned presidential candidate who, despite his impressive-sounding-but-mostly-ceremonial job as chairman of the Kansas City Fed’s Board of Directors, had no experience either making monetary policy, studying it or working in financial markets. Moore, meanwhile, is an anti-tax polemicist who has a long history of getting his facts wrong and answering any question about the Fed by saying that he’s “not an expert on monetary policy.”
Cain was so worried about nonexistent inflation during Barack Obama’s presidency that he wanted to constrain the Fed’s ability to cut interest rates by forcing it to increase them whenever frequently buoyant gold prices rose; Moore, despite his apparent inability to remember doing so, also advocated that we return to the gold standard out of an economically unsound (and politically convenient) fear that slightly falling prices under Obama would soon turn into out-of-control increases.
Cain has faced four accusations of sexual harassment from his time as a business leader; Moore, for his part, has admitted to emotionally abusing his ex-wife, was found in contempt of court in 2013 for failing to pay her $330,000 in alimony and child support and is reportedly still settling with the IRS over $75,000 it says he still owes in taxes.
Not to mention maybe their most important similarity: They both seem to judge monetary policy not by the business cycle, but rather by the political one. How else to explain the fact that they argued for higher interest rates when unemployment was high under a Democrat, before abruptly deciding that what the economy really needed was lower interest rates when unemployment was low under a Republican?
As far as Republican senators are concerned, though, none of this might matter as much as what, to them, could be the biggest difference between the two: Cain, unlike Moore, founded a pro-Trump super PAC that called some of those senators “traitors.” Which, together with the fact that they might not want to oppose both of Trump’s picks, is why there’s a very good chance that Moore could get confirmed when Cain could not.
But there shouldn’t be. If you had “concerns” about Cain’s “qualifications,” like Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said some Republicans did, then you should feel the same way about Moore. Or if you were worried about Cain’s “very controversial” idea of “wanting to return to the gold standard,” like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was, then you should also feel the same way about Moore (even if he has slightly modified his views to now support a similar commodity standard instead). And if you couldn’t support Cain because “character still does matter,” like Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said, then, yes, you should feel the same way about Moore.
Above all, though, if you “would like to see nominees that are economists first and not partisans,” like Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said, then you should definitely feel the same way about Moore that you did about Cain.