Adviser: Trump mulls Kudlow for top WH economist

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — President-elect Donald Trump is considering appointing CNBC business commentator Larry Kudlow to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, a Trump adviser said Thursday.

Conservative economist Stephen Moore, who worked with Kudlow to write Trump’s tax plans, said during a lunchtime speech Thursday to the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce’s economic club that Kudlow would be appointed to the influential post “within the next 48 hours.”

“And who better than Larry? He’s one of the great economists in this country,” said Moore, who has been advising Trump on tax policy in the transition.

Less than an hour after The Detroit News first reported Moore’s comments, the chief economist at the Heritage Foundation think tank backtracked and said he “misspoke.”

“It isn’t a done deal and I jumped the gun,” Moore said in an email to The News.

Kudlow “is on the short list, though” to lead Trump’s circle of top economic advisers, Moore said.

“I’m very hopeful, as most conservatives are, that Larry Kudlow gets the appointment,” he said. “No one is a better advocate for free-market economics than Larry, and no one has closer ties to Republicans on Capitol Hill.”

Trump is still mulling the appointment.

“There’s been no announcement on that position as of right now,” said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Trump transition team.

Kudlow, who previously hosted his own CNBC show called “The Kudlow Report,” remains a senior contributor for the business news cable television network.

Moore and Kudlow worked for the Trump campaign as senior economic advisers, helping the New York businessman craft his tax and fiscal policies. During the primaries, Kudlow lavishly praised Trump’s tax cut plan.

But the two conservative economists had one central disagreement with Trump over trade, Moore said.

“Larry said, ‘Donald, we can’t work for you. We believe in free trade and you’re more of a protectionist,’ ” he recalled. “And he said, ‘Look, I’m not a protectionist, and I want a change in the trade laws, but I’m not a protectionist.’ ”

Moore said Trump told him and Kudlow they could “agree to disagree” on his plans to renegotiate or walk away from international trade pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“(Trump) said, ‘But I want you guys to work on tax policy and fiscal policy ... regulatory policy,’ ” Moore said. “And I respect that ... he’s not just going to surround himself with yes men, but people who may disagree with him.”

Moore gave a nearly hour-long speech to Lansing-area business owners and leaders, detailing Trump’s plans for spurring economic growth with tax cuts for individuals, large corporations and small businesses.

Trump wants to cut America’s corporate income tax rate from 38.9 percent to 15 percent and ensure small businesses pay the same top rate as large corporations, Moore said.

“We’re going to go from having the highest tax rate to virtually the lowest,” Moore said at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center. “Every single small business in America is going to be taxed at 15 percent.”

Moore also addressed some of Trump’s post-election maneuvering on trade, specifically the controversial phone call the president-elect had on Dec. 2 with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking with decades of American distance from the self-governing island.

The Trump adviser said the call to the Taiwan president was an opening salvo in Trump’s strategy for cracking down on China’s trade abuses.

“He did that intentionally,” Moore said. “He is sending a message to China that there’s a new sheriff in town and we are going to get tougher on them.”

The Trump transition team has insisted that the president-elect was merely accepting a congratulatory call from a foreign leader and not making a policy statement.

China’s foreign ministry said it had “serious concern” about Trump’s call to the Taiwanese leader. China split from Tawain during a civil war in 1949.

But Moore said Trump was serious during the campaign about getting economically tough on China. He cited estimates that China steals $200 billion a year in American technologies.

“They open this stuff up, figure out how they can make it and then they steal our patents and our property,” Moore said. “That has got to stop.”

Moore said he’s not advocating a trade war with China.

“So with respect to China, there are going to be new rules,” he said. “And we’re going to require them to open up their markets to us if we’re going to keep our markets open to them.”

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood