In a new interview with the Economist, President Donald Trump, who has a degree in economics from one of the country’s top business schools, suggests that he himself came up with the phrase priming the pump—a common term for government spending to stimulate the economy that’s been in use since the 1930s.
Another part of your overall plan, the tax reform plan. Is it OK if that tax plan increases the deficit? Ronald Reagan’s tax reform didn’t.
Well, it actually did. But, but it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down. …
But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?
We have to prime the pump.
It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?
Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.
This is just one highlight of a characteristically strange interview. Trump, once again unprompted by the question he was asked, brought up how well he gets along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, describing him as “great” four different times. He also repeats the untrue claim that China’s currency manipulation only stopped once he started talking about it. More disappointingly, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who sat in on the interview and should know better, backs him up on this point.
Trump is also making it very hard for his staff to stick to the official line that the reason Trump is not releasing his tax returns is that he’s under audit:
Oh, at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.
Hope Hicks [White House director of strategic communication]: Once the audit is over.
President Trump: I might release them after I’m out of office.
There’s also this quintessentially Trumpian exchange about NAFTA:
It sounds like you’re imagining a pretty big renegotiation of NAFTA. What would a fair NAFTA look like?
Big isn’t a good enough word. Massive.
It’s got to be. It’s got to be.
What would it look like? What would a fair NAFTA look like?
No, it’s gotta be. Otherwise we're terminating NAFTA.
He never explains.