Message or Messenger

Why is Secretary Snow such a perennial target?


Once again, Secretary of the Treasury John Snow has been the focus of discussion that he may be asked to leave the economic team. From
CNN:


While those close to Snow dismiss talk of his imminent departure as rumor, one acknowledged “he’s not going to be turning down the lights in January 2009 for the next guy to come in. … He’s going to leave at some point in time when it makes sense, but now he’s focusing on his work.”



But many White House and Republican officials are not so diplomatic.



“You’ve got an economic team that can’t communicate about the economy. You’ve had two terrible secretaries. He’s seen as really bad,” an official said.


I must admit that I have never understood why the Treasury Secretary has been so unpopular in certain circles within the Administration (Note: I don’t know anybody at the policy level in the current Administration personally, so am writing as a complete outsider). He has been on-message on every Administration initiative I can think of.



I can’t say I agree with any of his arguments, but it seems that Snow’s public positions have been congruent with the Administration’s economic policies. So why the discontent with Snow? I think it comes down to cognitive dissonance. Economic policymakers in the Administration cannot understand why the public as a whole is not entranced with burgeoning public debt (under realistic assumptions) resulting from reckless fiscal policy, increasing reliance on foreign capital flows, much of it government directed, stagnant median real wage growth, increasing long term interest rates, and a tax policy so clearly directed at benefiting the top income decile. And hence, they hope that by dispensing with the messenger, they can get the public to focus on the true state of the economy, which from their perspective must be completely summarized by GDP growth. (Here I agree with Brad Setser’s post on John Snow).

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6 thoughts on “Message or Messenger

  1. begowa

    It is not often that a blog devoted to macroeconomics makes me laugh out loud but the following was very good indeed: “Economic policymakers in the Administration cannot understand why the public as a whole is not entranced with burgeoning public debt…resulting from reckless fiscal policy, increasing reliance on foreign capital flows,… stagnant median real wage growth, increasing long term interest rates, and a tax policy so clearly directed at benefiting the top income decile.”

  2. edfenton

    We The People come in two flavors.
    The first tends to believe in this Administration and is more or less content with the way things are going. That they are bearing a disproportionate share of the economic burden has not sunk in.
    The second is, IMHO, more savvy, more economically privileged and less inclined to believe _anything_ the Administration promotes.
    Thus, the Administration is in a bind: the people they can’t influence are those who are savvy enough to understand reality. The other part doesn’t seem to care. So, for the Administration, then, it’s a lose-lose situation, however different are the rationales for the two groups.

  3. donna

    And so it goes, until those who are too blind to see what’s happening become more afraid of starving to death or losing their homes than of gay marriage….

  4. Stormy

    Con men selling snake oil have a limited shelf life. Gotta have a new face so that the old broken promises look fresh again.

  5. menzie chinn

    Brad Setser observes I actually do agree with bullet point 2. What I should have said is that I don’t agree that this is the major reason for the US trade deficit. It’s important — but I think my weight on it (relative to the budget deficit) is lower than Snow’s.

  6. Economist's View

    The A-list to Replace the Treasury Secretary Snow

    Daniel Gross is pretty sure he won’t have to eat his words concerning John Snow’s A-list replacement: Snow’s Job, by Daniel Gross, Commentary, Slate: …Ever since Josh Bolten replaced Andrew Card as White House chief of staff, speculation has heated

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