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Charlie Munger: Trump is not primarily responsible for US economic success

President Donald Trump is not primarily responsible for U.S. economic success, says Charlie Munger, the right-hand man of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-ABRK-B) CEO Warren Buffett.

“I think [Trump] deserves some credit, but a lot of it just happened,” says Munger, 95, in his first interview after the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting.

The U.S. has been awash with positive economic news in recent weeks.

Last month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported first quarter GDP growth of 3.2%, which far exceeded expectations. Meanwhile a jobs report released last week found the economy added 263,000 jobs in April, dropping the unemployment rate to 3.6%, its lowest level since 1969.

Munger, a Republican, said the strong economic performance resulted largely from the natural economic cycle and the decisions of Trump’s predecessors in the White House.

Munger made the remarks to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that airs on Yahoo Finance on Thursday at 5 p.m. EST in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Since 1978, Munger has served as vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway alongside Buffett. The two met 20 years earlier through a mutual contact in Omaha, Nebraska, where both were born and currently live. Berkshire Hathaway is the fourth-largest public company in the world, yielding Buffett a net worth of $83.1 billion and Munger one of $1.7 billion.

Berkshire Hathaway owns over 60 companies, like Geico and Dairy Queen, plus minority stakes in Apple, Coca-Cola, among others.

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, left, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, briefly chat with reporters Friday, May 3, 2019, one day before Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

‘Presidents have always done this’

In his interview with Yahoo Finance, Munger dismissed criticism of Trump’s efforts to pressure Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on interest rates.

“I think presidents have always done this,” Munger says. (Indeed, past presidents including Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon Johnson tried to influence the Fed.)

But Munger sharply rebuked Trump’s policy goals at the Fed, arguing that a push to keep benchmark interest rates low will ultimately backfire.

“If you're a politician in a democracy, of course you want people to print money and spend it,” Munger says. “And of course, it's not a good idea.”

“There comes a point when printing money is counterproductive,” he adds.

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.

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