Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

When Bruce Bartlett talks -- we listen -- and so should the Bush White House

By Aussiegirl

So -- the dollar is falling precipitously, gas prices are soaring, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are on the brink of collapse, the budget deficits are spiralling out of control as Congress goes on an endless spending binge -- and what is the Treasury Department's role in all of this? According to Bruce Bartlett, not much -- because of more curious inaction by the Bush administration.

No wonder I'm not fired up about Social Security reform -- it appears Mr. Bush has gone on his roadshow without a detailed plan to lay on the table.

And come to think of it, weren't we going to overhaul that complicated tax system after the election? (Where have we heard that before, only each time they "simplify it" we get even more forms to fill out and more complex schedules and formulas to figure out -- and you just probably did your tax form with attendant groans, curses and epithets -- not to mention new batteries for your calculator.)

But Mr. Bartlett lays out some serious staffing problems at Treasury, with many top positions unfilled and no candidates even in the pipeline awaiting confirmation, and he explains to those of us whose knowledge of economics is pretty rudimentary, why the Treasury department has traditionally been one of the most important departments in the Federal government since the earliest days of our Republic.

At tax time, or any time, this is a must read. I am particularly troubled (yes, boys and girls, not only Democrats get "troubled and disturbed") by the revelation that all economic policy is being run from the White House and Andy Card and Karl Rove. Now they may be political geniuses both, and who am I to quibble with political pundits preaching from their podiums, but I doubt that they are expert economists, nor can they formulate economic policy from the White House without some trustworthy and expert advice and analysis from the specialists at Treasury.

This isn't as sexy as wars of liberation, but as the Depression showed us, an inattention to the economy can have disastrous consequences.

From what Mr. Bartlett has written here, it appears that this neglect of the Treasury is deliberate, and may prove dangerous in the long run -- especially if some unforseen economic crisis crops up in the future.

Read more from the article:

. . .Nevertheless, Treasury has always been the premier economic agency of the government. Generally speaking, the Treasury secretary is the administration's principal economic spokesman, and the department attracts the best and brightest of those with an economic bent who wish to serve in government. This was especially the case during the Clinton administration, which had an extremely high level of talent at Treasury.

The department's expertise has been sorely missed during the Social Security reform debate. It is now clear that the White House put insufficient resources into developing its proposal -- such as it is, with no detailed plan yet on the table. As chairman of the board of trustees of the Social Security system, the Treasury secretary ought to have been at the forefront of developing this plan. Instead, he has been used only as a salesman.

Today, Treasury has fallen on hard times. The first secretary of the Bush administration, Paul O'Neill, was summarily fired for reasons that are still unclear. The current secretary, John Snow, was publicly humiliated when the White House let it be known that it was searching for a replacement last year. Snow was retained only because the White House apparently couldn't find who it was looking for.

. . . All power is centralized in the White House, and the department really has no control over the issues that are its responsibility. According to the new issue of International Economy magazine, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten make all economic policy decisions. The Treasury secretary is not

. . .The problem is that we have a Treasury Department for a reason. It fulfills a necessary governmental function even in a minimalist state. One of these days, we may have some sort of financial crisis that will demand the full use of Treasury's expertise. I just hope there is someone there to answer the phone when that day comes.

(Bruce Bartlett is a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and a principal architect of supply side economics under the Reagan administration.)


At 5:05 PM, Anonymous One Eyed Cat said...

I was hoping he'd pick Steve Forbes.


At 9:56 PM, Blogger BonnieBlueFlag said...

Dear Aussiegirl,

I want to preface this by saying, that I am not a well paid advocate of George W. Bush, in fact I'm rather poorly paid. I got a Christmas card once, that's it!

Yes, he went on the road trying to get the voters to understand that Social Security is broken. He didn't lay out a complete plan, because he wanted input from the Congress, including those nitwit Democrats. As I said before, those same Democrats who agreed with Clinton, when he said it had to be fixed immediately.

Instead of being on the road to explain the new plan, he is now having to spend all his time rebutting the lame excuses coming out of the Senate. The same Senators who wanted action under Clinton are now saying, "Social Security is just fine, we don't need to do anything. Oh and by the way, we don't believe that the people of the US deserve to have benefits as good as the ones we have for ourselves anyway."

GW is trying to motivate the masses to get in touch with their elected representatives, to let them know that they are interested in this big yawning problem, that will not be swept under the rug.

Pres. Bush is not the grand speaker that Pres. Ronald Reagan was, and he never will be. He does better talking to the public directly, without the intervention of the liberal MSM attack dogs. So he is on the road again, do dah.

Having been accused of being naive by Michael Morrison, I was surprised to read that y'all were eager to have the Income Tax Codes overhauled, and moreover you were disappointed that it hadn't been done as promised.

Now there's a campaign promise that I never for one moment believed would come to fruition. GW may have meant it with all his little heart when he said it, but there was no way on god's green earth that it was ever going to happen.

The lawyers, the judges, almost the entire legal system supports the Democratic party. Now take all the tax attorneys and those affiliated with them (many who are conservative), plus all of the accounting firms, the tax preparation people, the IRS employees, etc., etc., putting pressure on their favorite Congressman and just how far off the ground is a flat tax or anything remotely like it going to get? I had a teacher once who would always say, "As far as I can kick a Lemon pie! Oh my, we are back to pies again.


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