Here's Who Should Really Be Advising Trump on the Economy
It’s me again, from self-isolation. The only way I know that it’s Friday is that this newsletter goes out and my weekly food delivery arrives. The difference is that with the newsletter, there’s no note that some of the items aren’t available at this time.
For now, this weekly column is free for everyone to access. Soon, only WIRED subscribers will get Plaintext as a newsletter. You’ll get to keep reading it in your inbox by subscribing to WIRED (discounted 50%), and in the process getting all our amazing tech coverage in print and online.
The Plain View
A few “esteemed executives, economists, scholars, and industry leaders” were startled this week to find that the president had publicly announced their participation in one of several “Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups,” intended to help kickstart the economy. Apparently for some of these individuals, the While House was not meticulous about providing advance notice, let alone an opportunity to decline.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice from business leaders, though committees like this are usually opt-in. But is this group really the one that will yield the best or most innovative responses? Let’s examine the list of conscripts, which is divided up by industry sector.
The first leader cited, in the agriculture category, is a lobbyist from Georgia named Zippy Duvall. I know that it’s childish to make fun of someone’s name, but starting off with a guy named Zippy isn’t exactly a confidence builder. Looking over the other categories, most include the CEOs of large companies, but there are some wild cards. The food section, for instance, includes lots of fast-food executives, but also celebrity chefs like Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, and Jean-George Vongerichten. (I love it that those culinary icons will be on the same call as the head of Waffle House.)
The 15 people listed in the technology category include the usual CEO suspects—Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Satya Nadella, Larry Ellison, and so on. Other tech figures are parceled into different industries: Amazon head Jeff Bezos in the retail sector, Elon Musk among the manufacturers, and Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi in transportation.
It’s a formidable lineup, but perhaps CEOs of public companies are not the best sources of innovative ideas. If you are going for innovation, why not bypass the executive suite and go straight to the most creative people in those companies? Also, those CEOs may be constrained in their comments by the knowledge that they are speaking to a self-styled authoritarian who metes out retribution to those who contradict him. So, just in case this newsletter hits the West Wing, here’s an alternative list of people who might, as the White House suggests, “chart the path forward toward a future of unparalleled American prosperity.”
April 18, 2020