Social Security is another matter. My guess is that the White House staff will handle this, as was the case with the Medicare drug bill. But since there is no one currently in the White House who is really an expert on Social Security privatization, I would expect Bush to reach out for someone who is if he is serious about making progress in this area.
There are two key positions where Bush may soon have the opportunity to appoint a Social Security expert. It is generally thought that Council of Economic Advisers Chairman N. Gregory Mankiw and National Economic Council Director Stephen Friedman will soon return to the private sector. There are any number of economists and financial experts who could fill these positions and are familiar with Social Security reform options.
On both tax reform and Social Security, the budgetary implications of whatever is done will be a central consideration, especially so since the budget deficit is a problem that Bush has also promised to address. Consequently, the director of the Office and Management and Budget will also be a key player. OMB is currently headed by Josh Bolten, a top Bush loyalist, but it is thought that he may move up to a higher level position -- perhaps White House chief of staff -- thus opening this position for another appointment.
Of course, there are many other Cabinet and senior White House staff positions that are likely to change. Bush has suggested that he may reach out to a Democrat or two to join his Cabinet. Two obvious names are retiring senators Zell Miller of Georgia and John Breaux of Louisiana, should they wish to continue in public service.
Looking down the road, Bush must also think about whom he wants to replace Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who is expected to retire, and World Bank President James Wolfensohn, whose term expires. Former Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Martin Feldstein is often mentioned for the former position and Secretary of State Colin Powell is often mentioned for the latter.
Whatever Bush decides to do on the personnel front will be revealing, telling us more about his priorities than one can get out of press conference statements. If he is fortunate, he will find the right people to aid him.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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