The day before high-school juniors sharpened their #2 pencils and took the PSAT, President Donald Trump challenged his secretary of state, who last week was reported to have called the boss a “f—– moron,” to compare IQ scores.
Because this is normal now.
Well, buddy, the rest of the week’s headlines provide plenty of fodder for a Trump IQ test — of you and the market. Bring pencils; the president will bring the #2. If it gets messy, he’ll toss you some paper towels.
Question 1: The war on coal
Item: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signs order to roll back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a linchpin of the U.S. response to climate change. “The war on coal is over,” says Pruitt, presumably not from the safety of the soundproof $25,000 secure phone booth he just added to his office.
Question: Can Trump really bring back coal, an industry that employs just 52,000 Americans while threatening the environment like no other? Should he?
Answer: Coal is competitive and gains market share among utilities, which consume most coal, when natural gas tops $6 per British thermal unit of heat. Currently, the benchmark price for natural gas NGX17, +0.55% is $2.93.
That’s why every bond of U.S. coal companies long ago reached junk status or bankruptcy, and why coal employment is now less than in renewable-energy sectors like wind and solar. Even acting (69,400 jobs) is arguably a more reliable way to make a living now. Markets have decided this question already; if you’re thinking about coal stocks, don’t.
Question 2. “Liddle’ Bob Corker”
Item: Bob Corker, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Trump’s new Twitter bud, says Trump might blunder into World War III. Trump launches a furious Tweet battle that Corker wins with the built-to-last dig that Trump’s White House is an adult day-care center where those responsible for containing Trump’s tweets had missed a shift.
Nuclear waste will be a lunch special at the Palm before K Street forgets how Corker pwned Trump, whose response was to dub the 5’7” senator as Liddle’ Bob.
Question: When a new president knows so little about nuclear weapons that he asks advisers why the U.S. shouldn’t make its nuclear arsenal 10 times bigger, and a report that a Republican Party source imagines that the secretary of defense and White House chief of staff should have discussed whether to tackle Trump if he tries to launch nukes, should I worry?
Answer: Albert Einstein — high-IQ guy! — didn’t know what weapons World War III would require, but said World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones. And don’t forget: Corker looks like the key vote to approve or defeat Trump’s tax bill. Ticking him off is a low-IQ move.
On the plus side, if you don’t take Trump seriously, you might hear this and think, “so that’s why they call the briefcase with the nuclear codes ‘the football!’”
Question 3. Trump, Taxes and the Failing New York Times
Item: Trump tweets that the economy is on the march, but that he gets no credit. He also complains about the “failing New York Times,’’ a stock pick he’s repeated many times.
Question: Is the stock market posting record gains while the Grey Lady conks out, both thanks to the Splendor of Donald? Does either make a case for Trump’s corporate-tax cut, funded partly by a tax hike on a quarter of the middle class, according to the Tax Policy Center?
Answer: Like everything Trump says about the economy, this isn’t true. Job gains since February are the smallest — Liddle Job Gains! — since 2010. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is up 12% this year, handily trailing the 30% gain waaay back in 2013.
As my colleague Caroline Baum tweeted, if an economy runs hot that’s an argument against tax cuts, not proof of their necessity. Who needs stimulus in a 4.2%-unemployment economy where merely beholding the Splendor of Donald revives animal spirits?
Meanwhile, shares of the Times Co. are up 65% this year. Sure puts news that Trump’s Scottish golf courses lost $24 million last year in a new light!
Question 4. Americanism and Its Enemies
Item: Hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins visit the White House to celebrate winning the champion’s Stanley Cup. The president, stung by how the NBA-champion Golden State Warriors sniffed at the traditional presidential invitation, praised the Penguins as “incredible patriots.”
Question: Are Penguins better Americans than Warriors are?
Answer: Ten of 23 Penguins are Americans, the rest are from Canada or Europe.
In the meantime, Vice President Mike Pence staged a phony walkout from a football game where players knelt during the National Anthem to protest racism, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said a university should investigate a professor who told students Trump’s nuclear brinksmanship might kill people, and Trump himself tweeted that the feds should consider revoking broadcast licenses for news organizations (read: NBC) that displease him, and said it was “disgusting” the press is free.
It’s a low-IQ look when the coolest head around is San Francisco 49er Eric Owen: “This is what systemic oppression looks like,” Owen said. Yeah, it is.
Question 5. Trump and the Market 2
Item: Newly minted Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thaler — high IQ guy! — allowed that he is as confused as anyone by the stock market’s gains and unimpressed by Trump’s tax plan, saying of the president, “his ratio of certitude to knowledge is nearing all-time highs.’’
Question: Can I improve on that diss?