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Trump's Populism Is Transforming GOP's Economics, Adviser Says

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Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally Oct. 10 in Ambridge, Pa. Stephen Moore, a senior economic adviser to the president-elect, recently said Trump's party is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan and free trade.

Stephen Moore, a senior economic adviser to Donald Trump, was once a doctrinaire libertarian and free-trader. Now, Moore says: "Donald Trump's victory has changed the [Republican] Party into a more populist working-class party in some ways that conservatives like myself will like and some that we'll be uncomfortable with."

Moore recently told House Republicans that the Republican Party under Trump is no longer the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, Moore explains the change:

"I worked for the Gipper. ... I think Ronald Reagan truly was one of our great presidents. I think if I had my way I would put him on Mount Rushmore. But the point I've made over and over to these lawmakers is, look, this is 2016. It's not 1986. We have different problems in this country [than] we did when Ronald Reagan was president. The voters have different concerns. ... [Trump] saw something out there in the voters that no one else saw."

Moore, an economic consultant with FreedomWorks, the grass-roots organization that helped launch the Tea Party, discusses Trump's plans to revive U.S. manufacturing jobs, being tough with China on trade and the president-elect's personal business holdings.


Interview Highlights

On protectionism versus free trade

Protectionism is a bad idea and obviously trade is a good thing. But I think we also have to recognize that, even though as a country we benefit from free trade, that there are people who have been victimized by trade and those are a lot of the people in these industrial Midwestern states. ...

On whether it's possible to make better deals with China without resorting to protectionism and raising tariffs

I guarantee you that Donald Trump is going to be a much tougher negotiator with China. Now how that turns out, I don't know. I believe that China's economy is highly dependent on the United States market and Donald Trump has made this point. Look, we have leverage over China. They need us probably more than we need them.

On whether China will have leverage over Trump since he has borrowed money from a Chinese bank and wants to do real estate deals there

No, I don't believe so. I think Donald Trump is going to put his business dealings aside. ... He must do that if he's going to be a successful president and I believe he will be. He has got to put his personal business concerns to the side and act in the national interest. And Americans are going to demand that.

On whether Trump's promise to bring back jobs to industries, such as steel and coal, that peaked decades ago makes economic sense

There's no question about the fact that a lot of the jobs that have been lost are never coming back. [Auto production lines, for instance, are more automated.] And so, yes, of course things are different. But I do believe that we can bring factories and jobs and companies back to the United States with a better tax system and a better regulatory system.

So this idea that these areas have to be left for dead ... No, I think we can have coal mining jobs again in this country, I think we can have steel jobs, I think we can have manufacturing jobs. We can make things again and we can do that because we have the best-trained workers, we have the lowest-cost energy and then we're going to have a public policy system that makes America competitive.

On whether Trump will impose 35 percent tariffs, as he proposed in the campaign, if he fails to renegotiate trade deals with China and Mexico

I hope not. I oppose tariffs. I think tariffs are a terrible idea. I've told Donald Trump that. [My role] is to try to push him in as much the right direction on some of these issues as I can. I've tried to tell him and he's actually used this in some of his speeches: Trade is good. He says, "I'm not a protectionist; I'm not an isolationist. But we have to make sure when we do trade, it's fair and free." And you know what? I've come around to that idea, too.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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