Timor Mortis Conturbat Me
Elementary Open Economy Macroeconomics

Stupidest Man Alive: Allan Hubbard

Today's contestant for the Stupidest Man AliveTM award is Allan Hubbard, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, who attempts to push back against Bruce Bartlett's book Imposter (and if my copy isn't here tomorrow, I'll go out and buy one):

White House Watch: White House pushes back on economist's knocks: By Paul Bedard: The White House is pushing back hard against claims from a Reagan-era budget pro that policy is whipped together without much thought and then presented to a compliant Congress for passage.

Allan Hubbard, assistant to the president for economic policy and the director of the National Economic Council, flatly rejected the allegations made by GOP economist Bruce Bartlett in his new book, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. Hubbard specifically faulted claims that the tax bill and healthcare changes were rushed through.

"I can assure you that we spent hours and hours and hours working on the tax-cut proposal" in the 2000 presidential election alone, Hubbard said. He added that the cabinet and outsiders had a big advising role in working on healthcare issues. "The policy process in the White House just isn't the White House itself," he said, explaining that outside experts are called upon when developing new policy. And just getting a policy ready for legislation, he said, "is a feat in itself."

Hours. Not months. Not weeks. Not days. Hours.

"Hours" is in all probability a good estimate of the time spent trying to figure out what the right thing to do was. Remember John DiIulio's account of life inside the Bush White House:

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: complete lack of a policy apparatus. Besides the tax cut, which was cut and dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis. [They] consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible." The former White House director confides, "I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis.... Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking: discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera."