Richard Parker Photo

Richard Parker

Lecturer in Public Policy

Donald Trump entered office in January 2017 with the promise that he would “make America great again” by building a wall on the Mexican border, overturning trade agreements, and demanding US companies bring jobs back to the US.  He also told us he’d reignite fossil fuel usage, boosting coal, gas, and oil against the challenge of renewables and phony climate-change advocates.  He also told us he was simultaneously going to repeal and replace Obamacare, massively simplify and cuts taxes, slash regulation, expand the military budget, and reduce America’s deficit and debt--thereby reestablishing America’s once-hegemonic political, economic, diplomatic, and financial power.  But how had all this become HIS responsibility?

Trump may seem extreme, but every president since Franklin Roosevelt—Democrat and Republican alike--has declared it his "duty" to "manage" the economy and "promote" America’s economic growth at home and abroad--responsibilities never mentioned in the Constitution.  But how did that come to be--and who actually decides those policies, why, and how? Using the White House as our focal point, we'll discover how 20th century American presidents took on this new role as "Economist-in-Chief" --and how "growthmanship" became their Holy Grail. We'll investigate how competing institutions, interest groups, intellectuals, and ideas first shaped that role—and sustained it ever since. We'll pay special attention to the shifting strategies pursued by administrations, and the contexts, competition, and challenges they faced.  We’ll assess the domestic and global political pressures on them, the economic models and political ideals they deployed, and the complex interplay of policymakers, politicians, journalists, interest groups, and the public. Anyone planning to work -- or who has worked -- in Washington will benefit from the institutional and strategic analysis and history this course provides.