“Best school, best school, number one, best school,” is how President Trump has described the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he studied for two years and received his bachelor’s degree. President Trump uses his graduation from the Ivy League university as proof that he is, in his own words, “a very stable genius.” He is so proud of his Penn business degree that he even sent three of his children — Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Tiffany — there.
Like President Trump, I also graduated from Penn’s Wharton School. While President Trump uses his Wharton degree to tout how he is “like, really smart,” he seems to have forgotten (or never learned) much of the basic lessons on how the American economy functions.
The miracle of the modern American economy is rooted in the free market. Allowing companies to succeed and fail without the government picking winners or losers drives our economic success. Government intervention based on a company’s relationship with politicians repeatedly leads to an inefficient allocation of resources and crony capitalism. This is the failed recipe the Obama administration pushed with the Solyndra debacle. It is the socialist intervention economics championed by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). And sadly, it is the way of President Trump.
In the White House, Trump favors certain manufacturing companies that he views as “good,” while thwarting companies, like Amazon or Time Warner, that he views as “bad.” This is exactly the sort of autocratic, socialist economic thinking that leads so many countries to economic ruin.
Likewise, one key reason why America has been the leader of the free world comes via engagement with the world through commerce. No other country in modern history has championed trade as much as the United States, and no country has benefited from it so greatly. But, rather than refine the rough edges of trade to ensure its benefits are widely dispersed, the Trump administration has sought to completely disregard the free-trade regime set up by the United States.
In one of his first acts, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with our Asia-Pacific allies. This decision turned decades of economic collaboration on its head. Even worse, it left a huge void in global leadership, which is rapidly being filled by China, much to the detriment of the United States.
While there may be some merit to negotiating improved U.S. positions in commerce, President Trump has instead opted to engage in senseless trade wars. In particular, President Trump finds a particularly devious glee in picking trade fights with U.S. allies — from Canada to Germany. The few nations with which he seems comfortable engaging in economic trade are dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and Turkey. This is a nonsensical economic policy that hurts American workers and damages the cause of democracy.
Finally, Trump’s fiscal habits put the liberal spending policies of even the most profligate far-left Democrats to shame. Under President Trump, federal government outlays have exploded and the budget deficit now reaches the highest percentage of GDP since World War II. His spending spree makes President Obama look like a penny-pincher in comparison.
The Republican Party was once known as the party of fiscal responsibility and prudent financial management. Under President Trump, however, our government now pushes dramatic increases in lavish, big-government spending that no tax-and-spend liberal could ever have achieved. Like the casino owner he once was, President Trump has put the U.S. government on a debt-laden spending binge. The difference is that, when Donald Trump ran his casinos into the ground, he was playing with investors’ money. Today, as president, he is playing with the taxpayers’ money. Unless stopped soon, America could go the way of President Trump’s casinos — bankrupt.
I enjoyed my time at Penn’s Wharton School. It gave me a stellar education in the basics of finance and economics. But the value of a Wharton education comes in the application of its lessons on free trade and free-market economics.
While President Trump can flaunt his Wharton degree all he wants, it does not mean he actually learned anything at our alma mater.
CHARLES K. DJOU is a former Republican Congressman and an Afghanistan war veteran. He also graduated from the Wharton School as part of the Class of 1992.