November 17, 2003

Treasury Secretary Snow Further Shreds His Own Reputation

Treasury Secretary Snow further shreds his own reputation. In general, it's not good to say things that leave everyone wondering whether you are a total liar or a complete fool: U.S. Treasury's Snow says steel duties were useful: U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Monday that big tariffs on imported steel imposed in March 2002 had been useful, adding that the decision over whether to scrap or keep them lay with U.S. President George W. Bush. "I wasn't part of the administration when they were (imposed) but I think they served a useful purpose for that time and we await what the President's final decision will be in response to the WTO action," Snow said from London in an interview with the CNBC cable television network. The World Trade Organization again ruled the tariffs illegal last week...

It is also not good to be so blatantly disloyal to your subordinates: it is not good to say that George W. Bush knows more about what good economic policy is than the staff in Treasury International Affairs who tried to block the steel tariff, and who now work for Snow.

Posted by DeLong at November 17, 2003 09:48 AM | TrackBack


By useful, Snow is probably referring to some of the restructuring of the big dinosaurs. However, this overlooks the spike in steel prices that drove steel parts contracts and the associated jobs overseas in droves. The same goals could have been accomplished without tariffs by the government shouldering benefits due to steel retirees, something they have done anyway.

I believe that Mr. Bush should end the tariffs. Whether he will remains to be seen.

Posted by: bakho on November 17, 2003 10:00 AM


As the Treasury Secretary, a big part of his job is to serve as a public representative for the economic policies of the Administration. So what else is he going to say? I actually think the statement "they served a useful purpose for that time" tends to imply that "that time" and the "useful purpose" is over (i.e. - his private recommendation is to end the tariffs).

And I doubt anyone in the the staff in the Treasury Department is upset the Treasury Secretary is supportive of the President. Again what would you expect him to say - "My staff got it right and the President blew it."?

Posted by: Joe Blog on November 17, 2003 10:36 AM


He might have quoted the President who said less.

Posted by: Hans Suter on November 17, 2003 10:50 AM


The 'useful purpose' was a political one, not an economic one. And while the political case looks, in retrospect, to have been flawed it is at least defensible. Maybe the Treasury Secretary is just offering his political handicapping? ;)

Posted by: Gary on November 17, 2003 11:43 AM


One thing that really concerns me is that if we get a global financial crisis, a la Mexico, Russia, Asia in the 90's what kind of confidence-building figure will Snow present? Then we had Rubin, Summers, et. al.; now we have a man who does not inspire, and seems to have a freshman-level understanding of economics.

Posted by: BobNJ on November 17, 2003 12:20 PM


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