The Wise Economic Stewardship Of Dick CheneyThis seems like a good moment to remember this section of The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind:
As the meeting in Mr. Cheney's office progressed, it became clear that the vice president was ready to weigh in on what the president should do to bolster the economy, and his standing with voters worried about the economy, as the second half of his term began. A package of tax proposals, led by a 50% cut in the individual tax on dividends, had been all but buried since Mr. O'Neill took his stand against it in early September...
After the midterms, though, Mr. O'Neill could sense a change inside the White House...Now Mr. Cheney mentioned them again, how altering the double taxation of dividends would provide some economic stimulus. Mr. O'Neill jumped in, arguing sharply that the government "is moving toward a fiscal crisis" and then pointing out "what rising deficits will mean to our economic and fiscal soundness." Mr. Cheney cut him off. "Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said.
Mr. O'Neill was speechless, hardly believing that Mr. Cheney -- whom he and Mr. Greenspan had known since Dick was a kid -- would say such a thing. Mr. Cheney moved to fill the void. "We won the midterms. This is our due." Mr. O'Neill left Mr. Cheney's office in a state of mild shock.Without the Bush administration's giant tax cuts for the richest people in America, the government would have more room to maneuver now. The options that remain today are less palatable.
Another important effect of the tax cuts is that a fraction of them will be used by recipients to support political resistance to any constructive actions to deal with our current problems. So it really was a win-win-win
Amazon.com ReviewThe George W. Bush White House, as described by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, is a world out of kilter. Policy decisions are determined not by careful weighing of an issue's complexities; rather, they're dictated by a cabal of ideologues and political advisors operating outside the view of top cabinet officials.
The President is not a fully engaged administrator but an enigma who is, at best, guarded and poker-faced but at worst, uncurious, unintelligent, and a puppet of larger forces. O'Neill provided extensive documentation to journalist and author Suskind, including schedules with 7,630 entries and a set of 19,000 documents that featured memoranda to the President, thank-you notes, meeting minutes, and voluminous reports.
The result, The Price of Loyalty, is a gripping look inside the meeting rooms, the in-boxes, and the minds of a famously guarded administration. Much of the book, as one might expect from the story of a Treasury Secretary, revolves around economics, but even those not normally enthused by tax code intricacies will be fascinated by the rapid-fire intellects of O'Neill and Fed chairman Alan Greenspan as they gather for regular power breakfasts. A good deal of the book is about the things that O'Neill never figures out.
He knows there's something creepy going on with the administration's power structure, but he's never inside enough to know quite what it is. But while those sections are intriguing, other passages are simply revelatory: O'Neill asserts that Saddam Hussein was targeted for removal not in the 9/11 aftermath but soon after Bush took office. Paul O'Neill makes for an interesting protagonist.
A vaunted economist from the days of Nixon and Ford, he returns to a Washington that's immeasurably more cutthroat. And while he appears almost naïvely academic initially, he emerges as someone determined to speak his mind even when it becomes apparent that such an approach spells his political doom. --John Moe