There's an old saying going back to the Reagan years: “personnel is policy.” It means that the sort of advisers and staff public officials surround themselves with are key indicators of the sort of policy regimes they will put into place.
The New York Times recently named a number of economic advisers who are currently advising or are interviewing to begin working for GOP presidential candidates. What the Times didn't do is lay out some of the terrible ideas these economists promoted.
1. Raise Taxes On the Poor to Cut Them on the Rich: Stephen Moore, who works for the Wall Street Journal in addition to being parked at the Heritage Foundation, has been at dinners of economists advising candidates such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. In 2010, Moore said he'd “raise the 10 percent tax rate to 15 percent and lower the [top] rates.”
2. Just Suspend All Taxes: Art Laffer is most known for his “Laffer Curve” idea, where he proposed that cutting taxes creates so much growth it will bring in more revenue. But he's been a right-wing economist who has been preaching a number of odd policies for decades. In 2010, he suggested just suspending all taxes to stimulate the economy. He has met with both Jeb Bush and Ben Carson.
3. Get Rid of Corporate Income Tax Altogether: Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University has advised Ben Carson, who called him to talk to him about the deficit. Kotlikoff wrote an op-ed in January 2014 in which he said we shouldn't just lower the corporate income tax, we should eliminate it. Larry Kudlow, a CNBC host and economics pundit, also advocated the same idea.
4. Detroit's Budget Crisis Is a Good Thing: Rand Paul adviser Mark Spitznagel wrote a column urging a collapse of Detroit's public budget and economic system, noting that “the good news is that, as Rothbard noted, such a collapse is the recovery process....Given this, purging Detroit's balance sheet (specifically the disproportionate unfunded liabilities that have plunged it deep into the red) is the best – maybe even the only available path to renewal.”
5. Our Veterans are Getting Too Sweet a Retirement Deal: Tim Kane of the Hoover Institute has met with four different GOP presidential campaigns, according to the Times piece. In March, he asked whether military retirement was “too sweet of a deal,” advocating for ending the defined benefit structure of military pensions and moving toward the Wall Street-centric defined-contribution model that may save taxpayers money but offer smaller returns for vets.
6. Wall Street Is Overregulated: Abby McCloskey, who is working for Rick Perry, wrote a long post for the American Enterprise Institute about how we can avoid another 2008 if we don't engage in “unbridled regulation.”
7. Income Inequality Is a Myth: The American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis, who is advising several candidates, wrote a post during the high point of Occupy Wall Street in which he said “income inequality is a myth.”
8. It's Okay To Kill People By Denying Them Health Care:In a blog post earlier this year, Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, who has met with several candidates, titled his argument “End Obamacare, And People Could Die. That's Okay.” He conceded that repealing the Affordable Care Act would lead to deaths, but that “in a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals.”
It's surprising that such extreme ideas are being promoted by GOP advisers, and yet the nominees continue to be treated as mainstream.