Monday, November 14, 2005

Tax and budget staff turnover on Capital Hill

I gather that Doug Holtz-Eakin is leaving his job as the Director of the Congressional Budget Office. This, in combination with George Yin's departure as the Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff, leaves two vacancies in important tax or budget-related staff positions. The big question is not just who will replace them, but what type of person.

Despite all my qualms (to put it mildly) about the Congressional leadership, they really could not have named better, more reputable, or more honest and independent people to those two slots than Holtz-Eakin and Yin. From the standpoint of a Congressional leader, there are genuine selfish payoffs to appointing such a person. For example, they can give you better expert advice and research than a hack, they bring more prestige to what they do, they nurture staff professionalism, they are more likely to be honest brokers between competing interests, etcetera.

But there are also selfish benefits to naming a hack who will do whatever you say and say whatever you want. Not to mention the lure of cronyism and rewarding faithful foot soldiers.

I will refrain from making a pessimistic prediction this time around, as I was pleasantly surprised last time by the appointment of Yin. But whichever way it goes on either appointment, it should be pretty clear immediately which path the leadership has taken.

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