Magazine article Insight on the News

Paper Trail Tells Sad Story about Logic of Clinton Pick

Magazine article Insight on the News

Paper Trail Tells Sad Story about Logic of Clinton Pick

Article excerpt

When an academic is picked for a government job, paper trails can present problems.

For Laura D'Andrea Tyson, a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley and Bill Clinton's pick to head the Council of Economic Advisers, her record raises questions. A substantial part of her academic work before 1989 was devoted to East European socialism, and she sometimes wrote as an uncritical apologist for central planning.

"Economic Adjustment in Eastern Europe," prepared for the Air Force and published by the Rand Corp. in 1984, considers the performance of Romanian socialism. There is no mention of the economic and social nightmare created by Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal regime. In fact, her description of the centralization process is so coldly naive that it could have come from a government press release.

"Following a period of uncertainty after Ceausescu's ascension to power and a brief but abortive flirtation with some decentralizing economic reforms of the Hungarian variety," she wrote, "Romania embarked upon a major |remobilization' effort" to increase "the already substantial investment program" and "renewed pressure on all levels of the planning and enterprise hierarchy to achieve increased growth rates."

The Romanian leadership was committed to "rapid economic growth, emphasizing industrialization, based on the rapid transfer of agricultural labor reserves to industry and on a major investment effort." Is "transfer of ... labor reserves" a euphemism for forced relocation and slave labor? We're never told. The only question Tyson raised was: Did the Romanian "investment" plan "work"? Yes, she said. Romania achieved "dazzling growth rates in the 1970s." It was an impressive record for an economy that, she freely admitted, "conformed to the traditional Stalinist model."

In the 1980s, Romania was "remarkably successful" in imposing the austerity measures that are required for rapid short-term improvements in the balance of payments. To date, moreover, these measures have not led to any significant threat to the continued domination of the Ceausescu regime." Indeed, she wrote, continued austerity measures may produce some efficiency gains" in the Romanian economy.

In fact, "austerity" led to a giant palace for Ceausescu and perks for the Communist Party, but little food, heat, electricity or medical care for the people, in one of the most brutally repressive regimes in this century, whose economic policies produced only poverty and death. …

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