President Trump’s economic policies aren’t just wrongheaded—they’re hazardous, said tech investor Glenn Hutchins.
“I think the economic policies of this administration have been irresponsible, to the point of dangerous,” said Hutchins, chairman of fintech investment firm North Island, co-founder of Silver Lake Partners and former special advisor to President Bill Clinton on economic and health-care policy.
Hutchins, co-chairman of the Brookings Institution, skewered Trump’s trade policies as “remarkably ill-advised” and the GOP tax cut as “a huge error.”
“It used to be the Democrats were held to be irresponsible, because they were for tax and spend. What the Republicans have done in this administration is borrow and spend,” he said.
Hutchins made the comments in a conversation that will air on Yahoo Finance on Thursday at 5 p.m. EST in the debut episode of Influencers with Andy Serwer, a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment. In addition to his sharp criticism of Trump, Hutchins offered up analysis on where the market may be headed, why he thinks regulation can help big tech, and whether he still believes in cryptocurrency.
Hutchins is no stranger to power. He was a private equity pioneer and is currently on the board of the Federal Reserve. He is also a part owner of the Boston Celtics and a co-chair of the board at the Brookings Institution, where he helped build the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, with which former Fed chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen are affiliated. In 1999, he co-founded private equity firm Silver Lake partners. His former company has about $45 billion under management, with investments in Tesla, Dell, Alibaba, and other tech giants.
Trump and the Republicans are reckless, Hutchins said
A longtime Democratic donor, Hutchins emphasized what he considers the fiscal irresponsibility of the president and the GOP.
“There’s some sort of myth out there that the tax cut is going to pay for itself,” Hutchins said. “It obviously hasn't.”
He tied the policy to erratic stock market performance, saying the nearly $1.5 trillion cut has elevated federal borrowing costs, which in turn have pushed up interest rates and unsettled markets. Federal Reserve rate hikes, trade tariffs, and the increased value of the dollar have added to the uncertainty, he noted.
“It’s no surprise that the markets are unusually volatile,” he said.
He said if an economic downturn happens this year, it will be the result of higher interest rates and a slowdown of corporate activity as the tax stimulus ebbs. A downturn this year would be short-lived, he said, likening it to the market correction of 2000 rather than the Great Recession of 2008.
Hutchins called for tax rates to return to where they stood under President Barack Obama or President George W. Bush. The government should, meanwhile, invest in infrastructure and focus its research and development on technologies that will keep the United States competitive with China, he said.
Regulation of big tech could be “a very good thing”
A leading tech investor for two decades, Hutchins said he supports legislation to regulate big tech. In light of the problems the sector faced last year, Hutchins said legislation that addresses privacy concerns “could turn out to be a very good thing.”
“It removes the uncertainty...and then allows those companies to reset and get back to growth again,” he said.
Despite a rough year for bitcoin in 2018, Hutchins reaffirmed his belief in cryptocurrency.
“Digital currency...is the most important technological advance I've seen since the internet,” he said. “It has the capacity to do lots more but it certainly has the capacity to enable us to move anything of value around the world at the speed of light at no cost.”
Since 2013, Hutchins has given $25 million to build the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard, which conducts research and holds events focused on race relations in the U.S.
Asked about how he wields his influence, Hutchins couldn’t help but allude to the current occupant of the Oval Office.
“It’s all finding a place where we can use the great good fortune I've had to good effect for people who are less fortunate than us, and for our country in general, which is in real need of leadership today,” he said.
“You can't do all this and get your golf handicap down,” he said. “But that's OK.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.