NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

President Needs Outside Economic Advisers

January 3, 2002

Bruce Bartlett cautions President Bush that despite his successful prosecution of the war against the al-Qaeda terrorists, he could be undone by the economy. After all, his father prosecuted a highly successful war against Iraq in 1991, but was still abandoned by a plurality of voters in 1992. Similarly, Winston Churchill was rejected as Prime Minister of England in 1945, despite being possibly the greatest wartime leader in modern times.

Churchill and Bush were defeated by poor economic conditions, regardless of how successfully they may have prosecuted a war.

Bush would help himself by expanding the universe of his economic advisers, as did Ronald Reagan. One of Reagan's first actions as president was to establish an Economic Policy Advisory Board comparable to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Several times a year, it brought economic advisers from the private sector -- including such luminaries as Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and Arthur Burns -- into the White House to give him a broader perspective.

As Martin Anderson relates in his book "Revolution" (1988):

  • The board allowed the president to hear from economic advisers unencumbered by bureaucratic turf, whereas the Treasury Secretary or Management and Budget Director, for example, must necessarily represent their respective agencies and their myopic perspectives.
  • One of the Economic Policy Advisory Board's greatest virtues, according to Anderson, was to encourage and lend intellectual support when Reagan stuck by his principles, in those instances when his own staff proposed other policies, such as tax increases.

Outside economic advisers are also useful in focusing the president's attention on the economy. After all, foreign and defense policy matters are often more time sensitive, and it is too easy to put off economic matters for another day.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, January 2, 2002.


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