Wednesday, December 11, 2002

When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the financial markets had a lot of doubts over the economic management ability of this governor from a small Southern state. Largely out of a sense of duty to his party, Lloyd Benson stepped forward agreed to take the job of Treasury Secretary for two years. He was somebody that everybody knew, and whose competence everybody had faith in. He did an excellent job for two years, and then stepped aside to make way for Robert Rubin, who had been has deputy. Eventually Larry Summers, who had been Rubin's deputy, took the job. Both of these men were also extremely capable. As a consequence of this, Clinton's economic policy team was held in high regard for Clinton's eight years in office. This showed in certain ways, like for instance that the Clinton administration's position on free trade was not in question. (It is greatly to the discredit of Congress that Clinton's fast track authority was not extended. He could have done good with it). (Clinton's foreign policy team was much shakier, and although the final team he ended up with in his second administration was okay, it was never much better than okay).

Now, however, we have the Bush administration. On foreign policy we have Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld. I have a lot of faith in this combination of people. On economic policy, however, we had O'Neill of Alcoa, who has now been sacked to make way for John Snow of CSX corp. This, and a few policy decisions (Steel tariffs, farm bill etc) seems to indicate that the Bush administration has no overriding vision about the economy or what they should do with it. Generally, CEO types have anything but the best interests of the economy (and hence the people) in mind. Generally they are interested in their company making as much money as possible, and in gaining as much market share as possible, and what they want is to do deals with government in order that they are helped in this aim. This is clearly not about promoting competition, it is clearly not about lowering prices, and it is clearly not about improving things for consumers.

It's perhaps not surprising that President Bush: someone who has done a lot of mildly dubious corporate deals himself, has appointed people like this. The problem is that he doesn't seem to realise that he shouldn't. There also seems to be nobody in the administration to tell him he shouldn't, either.

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