The Bush Team Brings Very Corporate Values ; New White House Wants Efficiency, but Critics Forsee Increase in 'Corporate Welfare.'

By Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Bush Team Brings Very Corporate Values ; New White House Wants Efficiency, but Critics Forsee Increase in 'Corporate Welfare.'


Abraham McLaughlin writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Forget "President of the United States." Perhaps George W. Bush's new title should be "America's CEO."

As the president-elect builds his governing team, it's becoming clear that corporate experience and MBAs are key hallmarks. With Brooks Brothers-clad troops spouting watchwords like "accountability" and "competition," the Bush team - led by a man who got his MBA at Harvard - could be the most corporate-oriented administration in American history.

The group is shaping up to be less ideological than President Reagan's conservative warriors, less old-school-government- official than his father's team, and less academic than President Clinton's PhD-heavy crew.

The new approach to governing includes managing bureaucracy by emphasizing "results," attaching fewer strings - but more accountability - to federal education money, and possibly letting businesses regulate themselves on environmental issues.

"This is going to be a very pro-corporate administration - and that's a double-edged sword," says Steven Moore, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington. For Mr. Moore, the good news is the team may deftly manage federal bureaucracy. Yet he worries that corporate welfare - tax breaks and other financial incentives given to industries - will only expand under Mr. Bush. Other critics are concerned that Bush's pro-corporate tendencies will lead to drilling for oil in fragile wilderness areas, or a commercialized approach to funding schools.

The new administration's corporate hands include Bush's choice for head of presidential personnel, longtime friend Clay Johnson. He's a former mail-order executive with an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There's also Commerce secretary nominee Don Evans, a longtime oil executive. Chief of Staff Andrew Card was once the auto industry's top lobbyist.

Not that all on Bush's team have spent their careers ensconced in corner offices. Treasury secretary nominee Paul O'Neill, for instance, was until recently the CEO of aluminum-producer Alcoa. But he was also President Ford's deputy budget chief. Vice President-elect Dick Cheney headed oil-services giant Halliburton, but he has one of Washington's most gold-plated resumes. Defense secretary nominee Donald Rumsfeld was CEO of some high-tech and pharmaceutical firms, but also has decades of government experience.

But corporate experience isn't necessarily required for a business-style approach. Perhaps the biggest booster of a balance- sheet style of governing is Bush's domestic-policy guru Steven Goldsmith, who gained national attention as mayor of Indianapolis. He privatized everything from the city's sewer-treatment plants to management of its airport.

Much has changed in American industry in the past decade, Mr. Goldsmith observes. …

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