The president’s 3 a.m. phone call is typically a metaphor. It’s a symbol of the president’s ability to handle a crisis. But in the case of President Donald Trump, it appears to be a revealing reality.
According to the Huffington Post, Donald Trump recently placed a late-night phone call to Mike Flynn, his national security adviser, to ask if a strong dollar or a weak dollar is better for the U.S. economy. In the early rounds of commentary on television and Twitter, several people have mocked the president for staying up late, pondering questions that might appear on an Econ 101 exam.
But this conversation, if it’s true, is concerning for completely different reasons.
“Is a strong dollar good or bad for the economy?” is actually a reasonable question without a simple answer. A brief one is that a strong dollar empowers American buyers, and a weak dollar empowers American exporters. A strong dollar is a sign of a robust American economy, but a weak dollar can be more useful for growing the economy through trade with foreign countries.
What makes this “choice” complicated is that Americans want all of those things. Consumers want to feel rich, but companies want to export a lot of stuff (while importing parts that are affordable). U.S. ventures want to be an attractive destination for global investment, but companies want to make stuff the world can afford, so that they can get rich.