Memo To: Treasury Secretary Larry Summers
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Job in the Bush Administration?
The New York Post Monday reported for the second time in recent weeks that there is serious talk in the Bush administration about offering you a job of some sort. The first Post report indicated you might even be asked to stay on as Treasury Secretary, but obviously that is not going to happen. The Monday report hints at some less official position, which I take more seriously, having watched your interview on FoxNewsSunday with Brit Hume. I thought your praise of Paul O’Neill, who will be your successor at Treasury, was most generous, as if you have already established a palsy-walsy relationship that will continue into the future. Is this part of the Bush bipartisan outreach? If so, I have been wondering ever since what kind of economic advice you would give? As you made clear to Brit Hume, you believe the outgoing government produced a good economy by raising taxes and thereby turning a budget deficit into a budget surplus. You are now promoting the idea that “paying down the national debt” is “like a tax cut,” which means the incoming administration should forget about tax cutting because it is happening already.
Now I have nothing against bipartisanship in the executive branch. There are plenty of jobs where it makes sense to have the loyal opposition’s views represented. In your case, though, I think any official or unofficial contact with the new administration should be handled at arm’s length. I’m sure The New York Times will happily run your thoughts on debt reduction on its editorial page. You also can write letters to the editor when you get the urge to raise taxes. The Washington Post would be a fine outlet for those impulses. If you have any interesting thoughts on monetary policy, whether the dollar should be stronger or weaker, you can write them down and send them along to me. I assure you if I find them constructive, I will pass them on to my pals in the new administration. Do please leave Mr. O’Neill a telephone number where you can be reached if he wakes up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, and desperately needs to talk to you about the economic course he should follow.