Freak-O-Nomics Indeed. Trump Ignorant of Solar Job Realities

March 14, 2019


Gary Cohn was a Chief Economic Advisor to President Trump from 2017 to 2018. He was the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2017.
He was recently interviewed for the Freakonomics podcast.


COHN: The president ran on coal and coal jobs. I remember vividly having a conversation with the president on coal jobs versus solar-panel installers. We ended up putting tariffs on solar panels, which I didn’t understand either. And I did turn to him one day and I said, “Mr. President, how many coal miners do we have in the United States and how many solar-panel installers do we have?” And I said, “I’m not here to trick you up — the answer’s — I’ll make it simple: less than 50,000 coal miners in the United States and more than 350,000 solar-panel installers. And by the way, 10 years ago we had no solar-panels installers. It’s a growth industry in the United States. In fact in California now, you cannot build a house without solar panels. It’s an industry that’s going to continue to grow. And we have to recognize where this country is going, not where this country has been.”

DUBNER: And was his connection to that, what most people would consider an outdated belief, was that political, was it intellectual, was it just kind of spiritual?

COHN: I think it was all the above. I think during his formative years growing up, coal might have been an integral part in thinking about the energy sectors, but clearly in states like West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania, he understood, and he was a bit of a marketing genius on this. He understood in West Virginia, and southern Ohio and Pennsylvania, you better go talk about coal. And he understood in certain steel towns, when he looked at the empty steel mills, he should talk about bringing back steel jobs.


The Trump plan to bring back steel jobs included placing tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum — along with solar panels and washing machines and hundreds of other imported goods, especially those made in China.

COHN: And when you put tariffs on goods that people in the United States consume every day, it’s a consumption tax. So all the tariffs did is they made products that Americans were going to buy more expensive. And in fact we got the final trade data numbers this morning for what trade deficit looked like for last year in the United States. And lo and behold, we hit an all-time record-high trade deficit globally, and with China.

DUBNER: Despite the best efforts of the White House.

COHN: Tariffs don’t work. If anything, they hurt the economy because if you’re a typical American worker, you have a finite amount of income to spend. If you have to spend more on the necessity products that you need to live, you have less to spend on the services that you want to buy. And you definitely don’t have anything left over to save. So we should try and make the goods as cheap as possible. And we don’t produce the goods in the United States; we import the goods from other countries. And if we could produce the goods as cheaply as other countries do, we would produce them in the United States.

3 Responses to “Freak-O-Nomics Indeed. Trump Ignorant of Solar Job Realities”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    On the good side, less goods means less transport, less production, less greenhouse gases.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    If the opening pic is supposed to be Trump, it should be mentioned that not only is his head in the sand, the sand is tightly packed in his head. More about Cohn’s thought on Trumo here—-quite entertaining:

    • Sir Charles Says:

      I believe Tramp knows quite well what’s going on. He just doesn’t give a sh!t about ordinary people. He thinks rich supremacists will buy themselves out of the crisis, and the rest can go extinct. The more will be left for him and alike.

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