What the Next President Needs to Know About the Economy

Read a book, save the economy! Floyd Norris is holding out some hope that his readers might be able to come up with a book or three that the next US president could read in order to understand "how the economy of the nation and the world functions," and "how to deal with the current economic and financial problems".

I have to say I’m having difficulty coming up with anything. It’s not that presidents are powerless over the economy, far from it. Rather, it’s that the key skills needed are in the way that ideas get executed, rather than the philosophy which lies behind those ideas. Consider emerging-market bailouts, for instance: the Clinton administration was philosophically in favor, while the Bush administration was philosophically opposed. But both administrations ended up doing much the same thing in the end: using highly-qualified Treasury Department technocrats to work hard on big international bailout packages.

If the president simply delegates well, putting well-qualified individuals in charge of the Treasury Department and not imposing on them any kind of political obligation to say that tax cuts raise revenues or that foreign investment is bad for jobs, then that’s 90% of the job done right there. That’s a lesson which both Clinton and Bush learned: Rubin and Summers were an improvement over Bentsen, while Paulson is an improvement over O’Neill and Snow. With any luck, the next president will get it right first time.

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