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Saturday, April 08, 2006

The A-list to Replace Treasury Secretary Snow

Daniel Gross is pretty sure he won't have to eat his words concerning John Snow's A-list replacement:

Snow's Job, by Daniel Gross, Commentary, Slate: ...Ever since Josh Bolten replaced Andrew Card as White House chief of staff, speculation has heated up as to who might replace long-suffering, long-serving, long-ignored Treasury Secretary John Snow. ... Many Bush loyalists have long blamed Snow for the failure of the administration to receive proper credit for what they view to be a brilliantly performing economy.

Unnamed Republican insiders are said to be hoping that an A-list CEO, preferably from Wall Street, will be willing to take the job. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal tagged Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson as a potential Snow successor. The Financial Times has noted interest in Morgan Stanley's John Mack and here, in Richard Parsons of Time Warner. Stan O'Neal of Merrill Lynch is occasionally mentioned in such conversations. ...

The probability of Bush being able to draft any of these guys—virtually all of whom have signaled their disinterest—is incredibly low. Why? For starters, it's a great time to be the CEO of a Wall Street firm. ... Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and their peers are making money hand over fist. ...

By contrast, Treasury offers only downside. The Bush presidency is hobbling to the finish line. Republicans may lose control of the House or Senate this fall. In the 1980s and 1990s, when Wall Street types like Donald Regan, Nicholas Brady, and Robert Rubin eagerly served, the Treasury secretary had a great deal of policy power. By contrast, the Bush theory of Cabinet government is that secretaries take dictation from the White House. Snow has survived as long as he has largely because of his willingness to stifle any thoughts that stray beyond the confines of White House talking points. ...

Working as a Cabinet secretary in the Bush administration is a great gig for career politicians and bureaucrats who haven't struck it rich. Participate eagerly in the process of crafting, selling, and executing policies—regardless of their merit, efficacy, or honesty—and you can make some money on the flip side as a lobbyist. It worked for John Ashcroft. By definition, however, Wall Street CEOs don't need to worry about their financial future. So, if their work calls upon them do something distasteful, or if they find it annoying to have their speeches scrutinized by low-level White House staffers, they can just retire to one of their many homes. ...

What's strangest about the Bush fantasy names is that they just aren't in synch with today's Republican party. Paulson is a notorious tree-hugger; he's the chairman of the Nature Conservancy. Richard Parsons is a member of that nearly extinct species, the Rockefeller Republican.

Finally, ... the ... dissatisfaction with Snow stems from the fact that he doesn't seem to convince enough Americans that it's raining when they're getting pissed on. Sure, the headline figures on gross domestic product, inflation, and the unemployment rate look fine. But median income hasn't budged in several years, and the tax cuts aren't trickling down. The richest of the rich are getting richer. ... As people who rely on wage income are subject to the slow-motion wage and benefits cram down, Snow—and the Bush administration—have had nothing to offer except health savings accounts, income inequality, and capital gains tax cuts. ...

John Snow will have a replacement, and he may very well come from the corporate world. But if it's an A-list Wall Street CEO, I'll buy a copy of Dow 36,000 and eat the first chapter.

Kevin Drum also comments. Menzie Chinn discusses the speculation over Snow's departure.

    Posted by on Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 12:48 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (5)


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