Kevin Hassett stands out among the potential candidates to become President Donald Trump’s next top economic adviser. The resignation of former Goldman Sachs banker Gary Cohn leaves a hole that the current chair of the Council of Economic Advisers looks well placed to fill. Hassett could calm investors and steer the president away from hard protectionism. The dubious views that he has occasionally aired might actually boost his chances of being hired.

Weighed against other possible appointees like trade adviser Peter Navarro, Hassett cuts a market-friendly figure. A former Fed economist and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, Hassett’s nomination to the CEA attracted support from economists in both political parties. The CEA itself is not too far removed from the National Economic Council that Cohn ran, and counts among its alumni former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

While he is clearly a conservative economist, especially on issues such as tax and regulation, Hassett has also floated the odd heterodox idea. During the last recession, for instance, he suggested that the government might consider hiring unemployed workers.

Critics will find plenty to fault – not least “Dow 36,000,” a book he co-authored near the peak of the dot-com bubble that argued equity markets would soar yet further. His past concern that quantitative easing might spark inflation also proved wrong, and his claim in October that recent tax cuts could pay for themselves cuts against most mainstream analyses.

As Trump careens toward slapping tariffs on imported goods, however, Hassett’s free-trade leanings could be a needed counterbalance. True, he told a congressional committee this week that tariffs were a national-security issue – that is, not one for economists alone to decide. He has also suggested that the president's agenda might address America’s “asymmetric” trade deals by encouraging other countries to lower their barriers to U.S. levels.

That’s an elastic interpretation of Trump’s protectionist impulses. Even so, the CEA head has managed to both stay faithful to orthodox economic thought and avoid publicly denouncing his boss’s trade agenda. It’s a political balance that might allow Hassett to soften the sharpest edges of Trumpist trade policies and calm jittery markets, without setting himself up to be the next person to exit through the revolving White House door.

On Twitter


- President Donald Trump said on Twitter on March 7 that he would “be making a decision soon” on his pick for director of the National Economic Council, following the resignation the day earlier of Gary Cohn.

- Media reports have named potential replacements including conservative commentator Lawrence Kudlow, presidential adviser Peter Navarro, Council of Economic Advisers chair Kevin Hassett and former CKE Restaurants Chief Executive Andrew Puzder.

- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on


(Editing by John Foley and Martin Langfield)

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