Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bolten To Replace Card as Chief of Staff

The President announced today that Josh Bolten would replace Andy Card as White House chief of staff. This strikes me as a very good move. The administration achieved its major policy successes with Bolten in the White House as deputy chief of staff. He was underutilized at OMB, given the insufficiently ambitious deficit reduction goals set by the President. (Yes, that's a euphemism.)

Of all the people I met while working in the Executive Office of the President, there were three who impressed me most with their ability to understand complicated policy issues very quickly. Bolten was one. Another was Keith Hennessey, deputy director of the National Economic Council. The other was David Hobbs, director of legislative affairs, who has since moved on to lobbying. So Bush has a very smart guy running the show.

This leaves the directorship of OMB vacant. I wouldn't be surprised if Joel Kaplan, the current deputy director, were promoted from the inside.


brad said...

What major policy successes? Major political successes, yes. But what do you regard as the Bush administration's major policy successes?

Andrew Samwick said...

I'll take the point that, based on my own views, these are more political than policy successes.

Sticking just with domestic and economic policy, I think the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were political successes, as was the NCLB act.

If the President were sticking by the original language of the tax cuts--that they would sunset--or if (once the payroll job numbers began to improve) he proposed spending cuts to keep the budget balanced at the lower tax rates, then I would regard them as major policy successes as well.

I think NCLB was a policy success--imposing some sort of minimum national standards is a reasonable objective.

See also this earlier post in response to a similar question.

Anonymous said...

The Bolten move looks like "testing the waters" with restructuring of Bush personnel. Will Bush make more moves? Will Bush wait for the upcoming elections before making more moves? All the heat to impeach or censure is building. Bush has to hope that Republicans can keep the legislature until Bush moves on.

GWB administration would do well to listen. Listening is important. To the extent that others are sincerely worried about the extent of the tax cuts, Republicans may want to modify policies accordingly. Bush would still go-out as a net-reducer of taxes.

I might believe in parts of lowering taxes and supply side economics. However, "supply side" does not work when you are simultaneously fighting wars. Reagan used the military but never got the U.S. in a land war.

bakho said...

"insufficiently ambitious deficit reduction goals"

Do you have any thoughts on why the lack of more ambitious deficit reduction goals? Is a big part of the political problem for this administration being abandoned by fiscal conservatives like Bruce Bartlett?

It seems like a simple matter that if you want to spend 20% of GDP, then you need to collect 20% of GDP as revenue. Clinton had the balls to collect 21% of GDP in 2000. Do these guys lack the balls to collect enough revenue, or do they think it is not important?

Anonymous said...

"Suply side" economics have worked during this war. Since 03 tax revenues have increased, unemployment has dropped, GDP has grown.
There is a mentality of needing to "sacrifice" in a time of war. How do our chances of winning a war increase if the economy is choking on high taxes and producing LESS revenue for the effort?

Michael Carroll said...

NCLB might consist of good intentions but as implemented it would be hard to call it a *major* policy success. Public school curriculae have been effectively reduced to three subjects: preparing for the test, taking the test, and what ever else fits. In practice this is not the end of the world but this is not what we would want from a *major* policy success.

Andrew Samwick said...


I can see only two defensible budget targets: a balanced on-budget budget over the business cycle OR no trend in the Debt (including trust funds) to GDP ratio over time.

Even Clinton did not appear to have either of these targets, and he got a bit of help from a stock market bubble in 2000. But he did, and this is the critical difference, believe that he would be held accountable if he did not get the budget balanced during a time of solid economic performance.

That belief is nowhere to be found in the leadership in the White House or the Congress today. And there's not much scope for a single OMB director to do much about it (which is why I'm happy to see Bolten back in the White House). Over time, we'll see more prominent conservatives, like Bartlett, simply refusing to be a strong part of the coalition to keep this mentality in office.

Anonymous said...

anonymous writes:
"Suply side" economics have worked during this war. Since 03 tax revenues have increased, unemployment has dropped, GDP has grown.

another anonymous responds:
In "real" terms, the fed revenue is not where it should be relative to year 1999-2000. It may get there in the future, but tax revenues need to continue to increase.

Labor force participation rates are not at historical highs. A lot of people quit working during the recent downturn. People borrowed to get through the downturn.

anonymous writes:
There is a mentality of needing to "sacrifice" in a time of war.

anonymous responds:
This is correct. My cousin is on an aircraft carrier. I see little reason to send men into harms way without everything they need. See feedback to Rumsfeld on armor. The initial cost of the war was too low. Our chances of winning increase if military men and women have the appropriate level of equipment, supplies, support and reserves. You pitch a false-tradeoff: at this point, the economy would probably not choke if the fed govt halted / paused the decrease in highest marginal income tax rates.