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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | January 23, 2003

Is Glenn Hubbard Walking the Plank?


I'm making a quick cameo to post this story for your consideration and comment. (thanks to Yuval Rubinstein for this tip)

Both ABC News' The Note and Taegan Goddard's Political Wire report today that according to the Wall Street Journal, "Glenn Hubbard plans to step down as Bush's chief economist... Administration officials stress that they aren't trying to oust him." On the surface, this could be just another personnel move by a guy who has had enough already. But with the budget hearings still to come for selling the Bush tax cut package, and with Hubbard's likely role as part of that effort, especially given the spin coming from the White House transcribed by Slate and others that Hubbard was one of the primary forces behind the design of the package, what are we to make of the timing of this departure given the sinking poll numbers for Bush's package and his handling of the economy in general?

If you buy the argument in the first place that Hubbard was instrumental in the design of the package, which supply side zealot will be left in the Administration to sell it at the hearings? If Hubbard was in fact pushed out, would you plausibly conclude that his departure signals a White House acceptance that the package is already on political life support? Is Bush about to scuttle it so early? If so, what about all those GOP senators who were forced to sign on to the package already? (How do you feel now, Mr. Frist?) How will they feel if it appears Bush's package is now stillborn and the folks who put it together are leaving or being pushed? How is this different from the Democrats that Clinton hung out to dry on the BTU tax? In that case, the end result was that critical congressional supporters felt betrayed by the White House cave-in, and such feelings led to losses of congressional support in future votes.

We have already seen GOP moderates go their own way on this package, and the person who it is rumored Bush will bring in to succeed Hubbard, Harvard's Gregory Mankiw, has already written a great deal on the harm that higher budget deficits bring upon the economy.

The departure of Hubbard, and the diminishing public support for the plan may have repercussions far beyond what we see on the surface. Given Rove's heavy involvement in the development of the package, any move to scuttle it so early makes Tom DeLay look even loonier than he did already, and will cause Grover Norquist and the rest of the K Street cabal heartburn. The GOP senators who were told by Rove to get behind the president on this may have their knives out for Rove. Once they lose confidence in him and his craven "politics is policy" approach, and see how Bush makes sure nothing sticks to him at the expense of guys like Hubbard, you may not see many GOP Senators willing to do it Karl's way much longer.


Here's a link to a Financial Times story on the Hubbard departure.

Posted January 23, 2003 01:34 PM | Comments (51)


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