As talk of trade wars and tariffs dominate the news media, you will probably find La Follette School faculty member Menzie Chinn offering researched and reasoned analysis to the narrative. Chinn, a professor of public affairs and economics, is a primary source on federal trade policy among the nation’s top publications.
On July 12, National Public Radio’s (NPR) Marketplace sought Chinn’s expertise on why the Federal Reserve would lower interest rates in a time of economic prosperity.
“Probably, they are erring on the side of caution in letting the rates drop just because they don’t see a big harm coming from it,” Chinn said. Some indicators suggest the economy will slow down soon, so the Federal Reserve is playing an expectations game.
Meanwhile, in June alone, Forbes, Politico, and Business Insider featured Chinn’s research and commentary. Earlier this year, he offered insight into the Trump administration’s fiscal and trade policy for NPR, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
When he is not a journalist’s favorite source, Chinn maintains a prolific blog, Econbrowser, with James Hamilton, professor of economics at the University of California-San Diego. Chinn, who joined the La Follette School in 2003, is an expert in international finance, macroeconomics, and fiscal and monetary policy.
Chinn’s work on the economic relationship between the United States and China is shedding light on the implications of President Trump’s international trade policy with the United States’ largest trading partner. Recently, his experience comes from work as a visiting fellow at the European Central Bank, Banque de France, and on the advisory panel for the U.S. Congressional Budget Office.
Since early 2018, the United States and China have imposed trade restrictions that escalated to a trade war. In May, NPR asked Chinn to comment on how China’s devaluation of its currency served as another weapon in addition to tariffs.
“Of course, that’s going to nullify some of the intended effect Trump is aiming for, which is to shift American producers and consumers away from Chinese goods," Chinn said.
While the nations came to a possibly short-lived agreement at the end of June to continue discussions, Chinn remains a reliable watchdog for domestic policy as well. He has weighed in on President Trump’s picks for the Federal Reserve, such as analyzing Herman Cain’s call for a return to the gold standard. Chinn also compared actual economic outcomes to the “faith-based economics” of former Federal Reserve nominee Stephen Moore’s Rich States, Poor States report.
On other trade policies championed by Trump, Chinn told Politico, “[Trump] is engaging in a number of very strange economic throwbacks here, especially this version of mercantilism that is a throwback not just to the 1900s but to the 1700s. ... This is all just going to continue to heighten economic uncertainty, thereby dampening the global economy and pushing the U.S. into a slowdown. Even if he somehow succeeds in forcing new supply chains, that’s going to take a very long time to occur.”
Chinn keeps a close eye on what he believes are indications of an upcoming recession on his blog, and Forbes cited the blog in a feature on the Federal Reserve’s ability to help President Trump and stave off a recession.
At the La Follette School, Chinn teaches courses in macroeconomic policy, financial regulation and global trade. He is coauthor with Jeffry Frieden of Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery.
Prior to his appointment at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Chinn taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and served one year on the White House Council of Economic Advisers staff. He received his doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.
- written by Jackson Parr