Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Good Bureaucrat
I'll briefly interrupt my holiday blogging hiatus--as if I ever really need a pretext--to point out a Times editorial today about a rare Republican appointee who has shown professionalism and a loyalty to country above party: Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Of course, he's retiring this week, so this could prove a mere blip in the general pattern of Brownies and Manns.

Often, what Mr. Holtz-Eakin said wasn't what his bosses wanted to hear. He went on record in 2003 saying that President Bush's tax and spending plans would do little or nothing for long-term economic growth. One report issued under his leadership showed that Mr. Bush's tax cuts heavily favored the wealthiest Americans. Another debunked the politically potent but false contention that the estate tax hurts farmers.

By going where the facts and figures led, Mr. Holtz-Eakin also protected his agency, which may be the last bastion of neutral government analysis in Washington. To succeed him, Congressional leaders need a top economist who has a reputation to protect and is a superb number cruncher, fluent communicator of complex issues and good manager.

Given the new raft of obscene tax cuts for Bush Pioneers now on the table, I half-expect them to just synthesize a clone from Arthur Laffer's nose hair or something. Paul Krugman's recent characterization of congressional Republicans as "tax cut zombies"--mindlessly shambling after more, forgetful or indifferent as to why they thought cuts made sense in the first place, much less what their effects might be in the current context of decent macro growth and scary debt accumulation--is all too apt, and I fully expect a (very late) Night of the Living Capital Gains Cuts coming soon to a Capitol near you.

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