“Conservative economist” on Bush’s tax agenda

Martin Wolk’s Kerry, Bush differ sharply on tax policy is an interesting read for a number of reasons – especially his suggestion tha the national sales tax idea is still being considered by the GOP leadership. I find the following both intriguing and insulting for reasons noted below:

A recent article in The New Yorker magazine described how Bush has taken a “stealthy approach” to tax reform, moving step by step toward a flattened tax structure, the antithesis of the progressive system favored by Kerry and most Democrats. Conservative economists say there is nothing secretive about the Bush administration approach. “These have been major fights,” said Dan Mitchell, senior economist at the Heritage Foundation. “There is no ambiguity about what Bush has been trying to do.”

The intriguing part is that some of Bush’s allies are saying Bush is clearly in favor of tax changes that would shift the tax burden away from high income households towards lower income and elderly citizens. Yet, Bush tries to deny any such suggestion whenever it is raised.

The insulting part is how the press overuses the term “conservative economists”. In my view, this term properly applies to economists such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sargent, and many others who are very able economists and rarely (if ever) write for purely partisan purposes. When the term is used in reference to the likes of Stephen Moore – who typically writes partisan pieces and is not an economist, it seems unfair to lump such hacks in the some boat as very able economists like Dr. Friedman. While it is true that Daniel Mitchell has a Ph.D. in economics, his writings are political hackery not economists. On the other hand, Dan Drezner claims he is not an economist but his writings on economic issues are always much more informative than anything I have read from Daniel Mitchell. I would hope the press finds more distinguishing ways to reference the various individuals they cite as authorities.