The National Journal's Jim Tankersley has an interesting article about Mitt Romney and his economic advisors. The gist of the article is that Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard are well-respected economists, but Romney's statements on the campaign trail suggest he's not listening to them much. Tankersley writes:
This, then, is the Romney Conundrum—for conservatives, liberals, and everyone else. Even on the economy, Romney’s signature issue, it’s hard to know where his heart lies—and how he would govern in the White House. Would the former Massachusetts governor listen to his best and brightest? Or to his party base?Of course this isn't entirely unique to Romney - politicians often fail to follow through on politically inconvenient suggestions from economists (though the universe of what is inconvenient for a Republican primary candidate to say is pretty scary these days).
“Romney’s got Glenn and Greg advising him, and they’re both top-notch economists,” said Keith Hennessey, who ran the National Economic Council for President George W. Bush. “But there’s more to economic policy than just economics.”
The article comes to my attention from Greg Mankiw, who linked to it on his blog, without comment. Hmmmmm...
As if to illustrate... Mankiw has a column in today's Times about tax reform. Among his suggestions:
Consider the tax on gasoline. Driving your car is associated with various adverse side effects, which economists call externalities. These include traffic congestion, accidents, local pollution and global climate change. If the tax on gasoline were higher, people would alter their behavior to drive less. They would be more likely to take public transportation, use car pools or live closer to work. The incentives they face when deciding how much to drive would more closely match the true social costs and benefits.Well, if Romney proposed that, it would probably take the attention off his tax returns!
Economists who have added up all the externalities associated with driving conclude that a tax exceeding $2 a gallon makes sense. That would provide substantial revenue that could be used to reduce other taxes. By taxing bad things more, we could tax good things less.