AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
According to one of America’s top economists, there is no mystery to the contrast between Donald Trump’s economic success and Joe Biden’s setbacks. “Deregulation is definitely where everything happens and nobody notices,” said Casey Mulligan, former Chief Economist for the Council of Economic Advisors under Trump. “It’s one of the best-kept secrets from citizens in general.” Trump made it a priority. Biden has done the exact opposite—and the economic impacts have been severe.
In a recent interview with AMAC Newsline, Mulligan helped to explain exactly why Biden’s economic policies have been so devastating to working Americans. Mulligan, who has taught economics at the University of Chicago since 1993, was tapped by Trump to serve on his administration’s economic team for the 2018-2019 academic year, during which time the U.S. economy saw some of its largest gains in recent history. Following his service under President Trump, Mulligan authored a book entitled You’re Hired!: Untold Successes and Failures of a Populist President (2020) detailing his experience in the White House and his role in the economic policymaking process.
Mulligan indicated that, during the Trump years, the effectiveness of deregulation was perhaps most noticeable in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “It started out with the President’s promise to cut drug prices,” he said. “And as economists, we understood one thing that makes products expensive is when there’s a lot of regulation preventing competition, preventing innovation.”
Through a series of attempts to make the FDA less burdensome, Mulligan said, “Trump learned that “it’s not easy to get a bureaucracy to move and change and do things differently.” Nonetheless, market drug prices—including for generic products—began to fall. “When Trump got that done,” Mulligan noted, “he saw a whole bunch of generic products come in,” and eventually, prescription drug prices “went down for the first time in 46 years.”
The removal of longstanding FDA regulations notably continued following the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-2020. “Before the pandemic, when we worked on [these] principles,” Mulligan said, “we said deregulation has got to be the key” to combatting any hypothetical global pandemic. “The FDA normally takes too long on these things, and we can do better, and we can move quicker.” Mulligan emphasized that the CEA explained in 2019—prior to the arrival of Covid-19—that the best defense against a pandemic is a “vaccine that’s done quickly” through a streamlined review process.
Once the pandemic struck, Mulligan continued, the administration followed that very deregulatory blueprint. Despite claims from Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health bureaucrats that it would take years for vaccines to be made publicly available, they were created and distributed in record time. “So, it’s made a massive difference in people’s lives in just that one area,” Mulligan said.
On the current state of the economy, Mulligan observed that President Joe Biden is “generally doing the opposite of Trump” and is “very deferential to the bureaucracy”—which has caused the FDA to move “slow” again, a change that ultimately, according to Mulligan, “harms people.” “They were moving fast under Trump, making things cheaper, getting the vaccine quick. But then Biden walks in and everything slows down to a crawl.”
Biden’s economic policies also harm businesses, Mulligan said, with a series of punitive and coercive mandates. “And the solution ought to be obvious,” he maintained. “Let’s go back to doing what Trump was doing, which is to let people flourish rather than get in their way.”
Among the most valuable lessons Mulligan said he took from his time in the federal government was the importance of listening to elected officials rather than only Washington bureaucrats, who are ultimately unaccountable to the people they serve. “I’ve never been elected to anything. I’m a professor, an academic, an expert, you might say. And throughout my career, I’ve been frustrated—you hear politicians say things that don’t sound very expert, they don’t sound all that educated, and it was frustrating.”
“But when I was working in the White House, my eyes were opened,” he said, to the “huge swaths of this world that we experts don’t understand, and will never understand, because we’re not accountable to people the way the elected officials are,” Mulligan said. “And by being accountable, the elected officials pick up on some very important things before we experts ever wake up to the problem”—citing challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis. “I’ve got my expertise, but I really need to listen to what elected officials are saying, because they’re the only ones who are accountable.”
Though the Biden administration is highly unlikely to suddenly reverse course and begin adopting the deregulatory economic policies championed by the Trump administration, the solutions to the current economic predicament, as Mulligan suggests, are readily available to them. By failing to follow the lead of his predecessor and implement proven pro-growth policies, Biden is willingly exacerbating Americans’ economic troubles and bears responsibility for the economic letdowns occurring on his watch.
As always, the American people are watching carefully. Their displeasure is already showing up in Biden’s dreadful poll numbers, and voters will soon have a chance to make their frustrations heard at the ballot box. As Mulligan said of the failures of the Biden economy, “The results are obvious to everyone”—except, apparently, to Biden himself.
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