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
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.
- the desirability of Social Security “reform”.
- the need for flexibility in China’s currency (as a central factor in fixing the US trade deficit [added by MDC 4/7/06])
- the Federal budget deficit and as the outcome of a “perfect storm”
- the efficacy of tax cuts for promoting growth
- “improvements” in income equality
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).