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Larry Summers: electing Trump would cause a global recession within 18 months

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In San Jose, California Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The prospect of a President Trump isn't just scary due to his racist rhetoric against Muslims and Latinos. Electing Donald Trump could also plunge the US and the world into a recession, argues Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton.

"If he were elected, I would expect a protracted recession to begin within 18 months," Summers writes in the Washington Post. "The damage would in all likelihood be felt far beyond the United States."

Summers lists several reasons he fears that Trump could seriously damage the world economy, but they really boil down to two.

The first is that Trump is unpredictable and could easily create instability, both at home and around the world — and markets don't like instability. Scaling back NATO would create geopolitical volatility. Playing around with the national debt, which Trump at one point suggested he'd like to restructure before walking the remark back, could create investor panics that make the 2011 fight over increasing the debt limit look tame.

The second is that the instincts Trump has shown aren't exactly business-friendly: his authoritarian tendencies, for example, or his skepticism of global trade agreements.

"Creating an environment where every tradition of the rule of law, internationalism and consistency in policy is up for grabs would be the best way to damage a still-fragile U.S. economy," Summers writes. "In no election in my lifetime has a major-party candidate for president been so dangerous for the economy."

Summers has a dog in the fight: He wrote a report that formed the outlines of Hillary Clinton's economic agenda. But he also argues that he's trying to wake up the world to the other dangers Trump poses. Global markets and their analysts have been more focused on the possibility of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union than they are on the ramifications of a Trump presidency. Summers argues they're not worrying about the biggest threat.

Donald Trump's rise is a scary moment in America