Douglas Holtz-Eakin

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert J. Samuelson

The top economic adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign sounds off about auto bailouts, health-care reform, and why Obama's fiscal policies don't make the grade.

Samuelson: If John McCain had won, would there be more bipartisanship? Holtz-Eakin: I think so. One reason is mechanical: it would have been a Republican president and a Democratic Congress. You have to operate in a more bipartisan fashion. It's also about style. McCain is more willing to disappoint Republicans than Obama is to disappoint Democrats.

How would you grade President Obama's economic policies? On the short-term policies, I'd give them a C-plus, maybe a B. They deserve credit for changing perceptions. The Bush administration was out of gas, and the public was starved for leadership. It fell to him during the transition to stabilize the situation. But on the long-term stuff, he is laying the groundwork for bigger future problems. The budget is in disarray. The stimulus and [the] health-care proposal are making it worse. The auto [bailout] sets a precedent I don't much like.

Why don't you like the auto rescue? GM and Chrysler could have gone through normal bankruptcy. The auto companies said they would never have come out of bankruptcy, but they weren't exactly impartial observers. The Obama administration put them through bankruptcy anyway but also acquired ownership stakes in the companies. The minute you own it, Congress wants to run it.

You've also said the country would be better off without the Obama-backed health proposals in Congress. Why? Health-care reform has twin goals. One is to reform the delivery system [hospitals, doctors, clinics] to make the cost of medical care grow more slowly or even fall--without diminishing quality. …