A ‘Hero’s Journey’ and the U.S. Economy

By Anonymous

The Washington press corps is trying to decide what to make of Kanye West’s meeting with President Trump today. Meanwhile after a rough couple of days for stocks, investors around the world are trying to decide if robust U.S. economic growth can continue.

The Associated Press reports:

Declaring that his red “MAGA” hat makes him “feel like Superman,” rapper Kanye West made a free-styling appearance in the Oval Office Thursday.
Ahead of a private lunch, President Donald Trump and West spoke with reporters as they sat across from each other at the Resolute desk. West dominated the conversation with a series of monologues that touched on social policy, mental health, endorsement deals and his support for the president.

If endorsements from celebrities were the keys to political success, Democrats would never lose an election. Last weekend pop star Taylor Swift endorsed Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R., Tenn.) opponent in the race for an open Senate seat and now an ongoing survey conducted by the New York Times and Siena College is showing Rep. Blackburn surging to a double-digit lead.

Still, some observers think that Ms. Swift’s enormous popularity may reduce the Blackburn campaign’s appeal among younger voters. Mr. West also enjoys an enormous following. Could he turn some portion of his audience into Trump fans? AP has more on today’s White House gathering:

West said that many people believe that, if you’re black, you have to be a Democrat and said he was pressured not to wear his red “Make America Great Again” hat. But he said “this hat, it gives me power.”

White House pool reporter Anne Gearan of the Washington Post adds that Mr. West lauded the President for his “bravery” in working on criminal justice issues. Mr. West added:

My dad and my mom separated so there was not a lot of male energy in my home and also I’m married to a family where, you know, there’s not a lot of male energy. It’s beautiful though.

Mr. West is married to marketing expert Kim Kardashian, who successfully lobbied the President earlier this year to commute the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who had been convicted in 1996 on drug-related offenses.

Mr. West was accompanied to the meeting today by Jim Brown, arguably the greatest player in the history of professional football. At the meeting Mr. Trump credited Mr. Brown with offering to help the White House address criminal justice reform.

When asked by a reporter if Mr. West could be a future presidential candidate, Mr. Trump responded, “Could very well be.”

“Only after, 2024. Let’s stop worrying about the future. All we have is today,” added Mr. West. “Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. “

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Meanwhile on Wall Street, debate continues over how long U.S. equities can stay on the financial hero’s journey that began on Election Night in 2016.

Perhaps inspired by Mr. West, Joe Kalish and Veneta Dimitrova of Ned Davis Research lyrically make the case that the economy can keep growing: “While this expansion will soon be the longest, it is far from being the strongest.”

In other words, the slow pace of recovery since 2009 has a bright side in that the economy still has room to expand before it hits the total amount of growth typical in previous expansions. “At 22.3%, this expansion is very mediocre, coming in at less than half of the powerful 1960s boom and well below the 43% of the 1990s.”

In one popular song Mr. West has echoed Nietzsche in arguing that what does not kill him makes him stronger. The analysts at Ned Davis argue that underlying strengths mean the current recovery may not be killed any time soon. They note that even according to the Congressional Budget Office, the positive impact of the Trump tax cuts will continue for years to come.

Mr. Kalish and Ms. Dimitrova are also skeptical of the argument that tighter monetary policy will choke off growth:

The Fed raises rates to increase the cost of borrowing and slow credit creation. The question is what credit growth are they trying to slow? ... credit growth remains sluggish by historical standards... Even business debt growth has been subpar, slightly exceeding average growth for three nonconsecutive quarters before retreating. What excess are we retreating from this cycle? Household debt growth (both mortgages and consumer credit) is anemic. A shortage of housing supply has constrained mortgage growth.

No doubt one can point to the huge bond issuance of recent years, but bank lending growth lately has been modest. Lindsey Bell of CFRA Research says it’s due in part to banks being more careful than they were before the last crisis. Let’s hope so.

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In Other News

Worst Appeals to Authority
“Russia dossier author criticizes Trump, slams ‘strange and troubling times’,” CNN, Oct. 11

Go Blue
“UM disciplines prof over Israel letter controversy,” Detroit News, Oct. 11

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Bottom Stories of the Day

We Blame George W. Bush
“Seeing more spiders in Chicago this fall? You can probably blame mosquitoes,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 10

He Probably Doesn’t Even Consider Himself a Hero
“Bundesliga fan sends Twitter wild by carrying eight pints AND eating bratwurst sausage live on TV,” The Sun, Oct. 8

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(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Brent Burkholder, Monty Krieger, Alan Kuska and Tony Lima.)

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Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “Borrowed Time,” now available from HarperBusiness.