Strange as it may seem, Bush is having trouble finding conservative economists to come and help him push his second term agenda:

IT’S no secret that hurricanes and wars have swamped the economic agenda that George W. Bush planned for his second term. In the commotion, however, one fact has gone largely unnoticed: much of Washington’s expert economic team has disappeared.

The chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisers will soon be vacant, and two spots on the Federal Reserve Board that were recently filled by academic economists already are. There is no assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy, and the director’s chair at the Congressional Budget Office, currently occupied by Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, will soon be empty, too.

So let’s add that up:

    1 Chairman for the Council of Economic Advisors
+ 2 Federal Reserve Board members
+ 1 Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (tax policy)
+ 1 Director of the Congressional Budget Office

= FIVE qualified economists wanted by the Bush Administration.

Surely there are 5 economists with decent academic reputations and good conservative credentials willing to help the Greatest President Ever get his economic program off the ground? Or are there?

“Bush’s reputation in at least the academic community is about as low as you can imagine,” said William A. Niskanen, who was a member of the council during President Ronald Reagan’s first term and is now chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research group. “A lot of people would not be willing to give up a good tenured position for a position in the White House.”

Guess they don’t see much potential job security in working for Mister 34% and Falling Approval Rating. Or maybe the Administration is just having trouble finding anyone who approves of Bush’s economic policies:

Quite a few economists might have a hard time acting as the president’s mouthpiece today. Plenty of academics, even some who have supported Republicans in the past, have condemned the White House’s current policies. In particular, the enormous federal deficit has elicited ire from both left and right.

“There are a number of Republicans, both the right-wingers and the moderates, who are very uncomfortable about the deficits, and particularly about the spending that we saw in the first four years,” Mr. Mussa said.

Or maybe it has to do with how he doesn’t take their advice, or even consult with them much these days:

Mr. Niskanen suggested that this change could stem from a perceived drop in the prestige of the council. “Bush has centralized policy decision-making much more than any president in years,” he said. “The Council of Economic Advisers has been somewhat bypassed.”

Mr. Niskanen said that there were now fewer meetings between members of the council and members of the president’s cabinet than there were during his term. The council’s offices have even been moved to a building farther from the White House.

Whatever the reason, it seems that now that he needs a few of these effete intellectual types to pretty up his latest “Big Ideas”, they’re nowhere to be found:

ALL of these tensions may have resulted in a sort of Catch-22. The president’s inability to move forward with much of his second-term economic agenda – dealing with Social Security, the tax system, immigration and tort rules – may have dulled economists’ eagerness to work with him. Yet he may need them in order to start the wheels moving.

It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for the bastard.


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