“We are all Keynesians now,” Richard Nixon famously remarked, but only Donald Trump could have convinced himself that he is Keynes. Consider this exchange from an interview with The Economist published Thursday:
You understand the expression “prime the pump”?
We have to prime the pump.
It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?
Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.
As a million Twitter wags immediately pointed out, Trump hadn’t invented the phrase. It is, as The Economist’s editors suggested, usually associated with John Maynard Keynes’s theories. (In fact, the phrase seems to have been popularized by Herbert Hoover.) And not only did Trump not invent it, he’s been using it since at least March, when he spoke of priming the pump in an interview with Robert Draper.
Trump’s blithe confidence that he invented one of the most common phrases in popular economic discourse is stunning on several counts. It not only suggests a self-confidence bordering on delusion, it illuminates a worrisome fact: The president both knows very little about the things he talks about, and has little interest in learning more.