Christina Romer listens as President-elect Barack Obama announces her appointment. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
On Friday, Obama announced Tim Geithner will be his Treasury man, and on Monday he made Larry Summers his White House economics tsar and named Christine Romer to the top spot in the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).
Here’s my thought on his team. Summers, Geithner, and Romer will all recommend no tax hikes in a recession. Maybe for Keynesian reasons; maybe a nod to supply-siders. Obama talked about a liberal-conservative consensus. But what’s especially encouraging is the appointment of Ms. Romer, who easily could serve as CEA head in a Republican administration (just like Geithner could have been McCain’s Treasury man).
About a year and half ago economist Don Luskin sent me a long article about taxes by Christine and her husband David Romer, who were writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research. From the introduction: “The resulting estimates indicate that tax increases are highly contractionary. . . . The large effect stems in considerable part form a powerful negative effect of tax increases on investment.”
Later in the article, the Romers write: “In short, tax increases appear to have a very large, sustained, and highly significant negative impact on output.”
That’s what makes the Romer appointment so interesting. In fact, there is no question that Obama’s economic team is right of center. All three are market-oriented. They’re also pro-free-trade. Hopefully Summers and Geithner maintain the Robert Rubin King Dollar policy of the Clinton years. And if Ms. Romer can stop tax hikes, that will help the greenback even more.
At a minimum, both Romer and Geithner could have served under Gerald Ford or George H. W. Bush. But they may be more pro-growth than that. Romer’s study of the damage of tax hikes on the economy and her emphasis on investment are right on target. In a New York Times story, a former Treasury colleague of Geithner’s says, “he’s no liberal.” As for Summers, while he has been mau-maued by Democratic feminists and some of the unions, he is a tough, clear-headed thinker who has for years tried to merge Keynesian and supply-side policies. No mean feat.
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