In Defense of O’Neill

Donald Luskin praises Treas. Sec. Snow with the following:

I’ve come to believe that John Snow is doing a terrific job. Since he was nominated by the president in January 2003, he has been at the center of the Bush administration’s best economic initiatives. In his first months in office, he helped push through the 2003 tax cuts on personal income, dividends, and capital gains. Those tax cuts were arguably the Bush administration’s single best economic policy initiative — the catalyst for a sharp turnaround in economic growth and job creation. Those tax cuts probably wouldn’t have happened were it not for Snow’s tireless salesmanship. The only time I ever met Snow, in fact, was at a presidential briefing on the tax cuts with a small group of economists in April 2003. As soon as the meeting broke up, Snow raced up to me, grabbed me by the arm, and took me and two other economists out to the White House lawn where he whipped up a spontaneous press conference to ballyhoo the tax cuts.

Ballyhoo is an interesting way to put this and I could spend an entire post mocking the premise that the 2003 tax cuts led to the belated recovery. But it is the following that needs mocking even more:

If the tax cuts were the administration’s finest economic hour, then its 2002 steel tariffs probably were its worst. They were implemented under Snow’s predecessor, Paul O’Neill. They were rescinded in Snow’s first year in office.

Let me agree with Mr. Luskin that the 2002 steel tariffs were bad policy – but it was not Treas. Sec. O’Neill that pushed forward this idea. That honor belongs to Vice President Cheney.