Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Hamilton Project

WaPo has an interesting piece on the relaunch of the Hamilton Project, which is a Robert Rubin and Roger Altman operation.

As Treasury Secretary, Rubin was a key player in the relative conservative budgets coming out of the Clinton Administration. Emphasis on relative. Craig Steiner makes a very strong case that in the Clinton years a surplus was never reached, despite beliefs otherwise. That said, compared to the GW years and the Obama Administration, the deficits under Clinton were pocket change. The credit for this has to go to Rubin, who has always emphasized budget concerns.

Rubin/Altman shouldn't be confused with small government types, they did afterall name their organization the Hamilton Project, not the Jefferson Project. And, as WaPo notes, the group published a paper Tuesday outlining its research agenda. The group, which  included Rubin, Altman, Greenstone and Sarah Cannon, argued in advanced Keynesian fashion that a sustainable economic recovery requires a "national investment" in education, more government support for research and development, and a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to combat global warming.

However, the paper also said that those "investments" must be combined with a serious deficit-reduction effort.

There is obvious conflict between these two goals, but Rubin does have a track record for at least keeping an eye on budgets. I don't see how we are going to get out of the current financial mess without a major nation-rattling financial crisis, but the more influence from the Hamilton Project, given the alternatives surrounding Obama, the better. I am talking realeconomik here and not my ideal way of running a government. We are in the bottom of the ninth and down by 10 runs, with little hope, but at least the batter in the on-deck circle knows how to scramble for a bunt single, whatever good that will do.

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