July 29, 2002
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill

For quite a while--more than a year now--the majority of economic reporters I know have been telling me that Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is really not up to the job. They say he has no clue as to the substance of economic policy. They say his managerial skills are lousy. And they say he is no clue how to look like a Treasury Secretary.

I don't care (much) about the third. I care about the second primarily because I have deep affection for the Treasury's career staff: they're very good people who deserve a very good boss. But I do care very deeply about the first for the country's sake.

And here we have an example of the deep familiarity of Paul O'Neill with the substance of tax policy, in his response to a question about Bob Rubin's recommendation to restore America's budget surplus:


ABCNEWS.com : Political News Summary: July 29: Security, Opportunity and Responsibility

"...former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's long-term restraint in refusing to publicly (or even privately) criticize current Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill... was met by a boomerang to the gut... O'Neill...out of the blue attacked Rubin for being in Singapore while Citi was having troubles, in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism for his own globe-trotting. When asked about Rubin's repeated call for canceling most of the (Bush) tax cut, O'Neill said, "He's saying raising the taxes, Tim. I'm sorry. You know where he said it from? He said it from Singapore while his company was losing $50 billion worth of market capitalization."...

Posted by DeLong at July 29, 2002 10:47 AM | Trackback

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It would surprise me if O'Neill lacks managerial chops (though may fall for many of the snares that await the "let's run government just like a business" enthusiast).

Jumping from the $20B league to the $10T league may involve certain non-obvious adjustments.

But I suspect at the heart of the matter, Paul O'Neill is just a micro guy in a macro job.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on July 29, 2002 07:52 PM

Or, at the heart of the matter, that O'Neil is simply a standard issue Bush crony capitalist. Which is great for enriching himself, if he doesn't have so much power that he can trash the system.

Posted by: Barry on July 30, 2002 07:56 AM

I think his response is rather proper in keeping with the Bush administration's MO for shirking responsibility and not addressing problems head on (bravo to the "responsibility" and "grown-up" administration).
I am also sickened that pundits, such as Russert, allow the administration to continue to peddle the illogical notion that canceling a future tax cut is "raising" taxes.

Posted by: AMendoza on July 30, 2002 08:50 AM
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