Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Will Treasury Secretary Paulson Do?

David Wessel wonders what Treasury Secretary Paulson will do for the next two years:

Capital - President Bush faces a big decision in coming weeks: how best to deploy his energetic, impatient new Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, after November's congressional elections.

Although his presidency will be defined by Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq war, Mr. Bush and his chief of staff, Josh Bolten, surely are beginning to ponder whether they can accomplish anything economic in the two years Mr. Bush has left in office. If they decide to be ambitious -- and that is a big if -- Mr. Paulson is eager to be the field marshal.

"When there is a big problem that needs fixing, you should run toward it, rather than away from it," Mr. Paulson said in his first speech. "That is one of the reasons I decided to come to Washington."...

China obviously looms large in the Paulson portfolio, and he plans to return there before year end. But that is a long-term investment.... Paulson, alarmed that so many companies are choosing to make their initial public offerings outside the U.S., is serious about making America's capital markets "more competitive."...

Mr. Paulson has the advantage of being unscarred by the partisanship of the past few years.... "If you see me in Ohio, I'll be there for reasons other than political," Mr. Paulson quipped while in China. "And I've got no plans to go to Ohio in the immediate future."

Whether Mr. Paulson can do anything depends largely on the president. One bold stroke would be to team Mr. Paulson with Trade Representative Susan Schwab to resuscitate the stalled Doha Round of world trade talks....

An even bolder stroke would be for the president to tell Mr. Paulson to tackle long-term budget issues, reopening the conversation about fixing Social Security, perhaps tying it to some kind of tax reform. Moving on fiscal issues, though, would require Mr. Bush to give Mr. Paulson negotiating authority to consider things the president, so far, has sworn to avoid. Without that, Mr. Paulson would be well-advised to spend more time in China and less in Washington....

If Paulson were going to try to close the Doha Round or fix entitlement programs, he would have negotiated for the baton to do so before he took the Treasury Secretary job. He didn't. So the odds are he will focus on the U.S.-China relationship--a place where he could actually do a lot of good.


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