Steven Perlberg contributed to this report.
In April, a Republican National Committee spokesperson said the Republican Party’s 2012 platform would focus on the same policies pushed by former President George W. Bush, “just updated.” In case anyone needs a reminder, Bush’s policies included massive tax cuts that led to exploding deficits and debt and a weak decade of job growth, the attempted privatization of Social Security, and deregulation of the financial industry that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.
Despite that record, the party’s nominee seems to be chasing an agenda that truly is “Bush updated.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s economic advisers include two former chairmen of Bush’s Council on Economic Advisers and a veteran of Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. The policies favored by those advisers include even bigger tax cuts, more deregulation, and support for dismantling Social Security. ThinkProgress compiled a look at each of Romney’s five economic advisers and the policies they have supported in the past, as well as those they hope to implement in the future.
Glenn Hubbard was the chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council on Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003, during which time both pieces of Bush’s massive package of tax cuts became law. And while Hubbard now claims tax reform should target the wealthy, the ideas he has helped craft for Romney fail to do so. Hubbard is one of the major designers of Romney’s tax plan, which is four times larger than the Bush tax cuts and would explode the federal debt while giving the rich another huge break. Hubbard is also a fierce advocate of financial deregulation and, like Romney, supports dismantling the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In June, Hubbard criticized Obama on the editorial pages of a German newspaper and called for increasing Europe’s reliance on failed austerity policies. Hubbard reportedly takes the ideas of a Romney donor who supports more income inequality “seriously,” and he also supports the privatization of Social Security, a plan that would have decimated the retirement funds of millions of Americans in the latest financial crisis. But it’s not all bad: Hubbard has pushed a plan to offer mass mortgage refinancing to millions of America’s struggling homeowners, and he has slammed anti-tax activist Grover Norquist for his blanket refusal to consider revenue increases, which Hubbard supported as part of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.
Greg Mankiw succeeded Hubbard as the chairman of Bush’s Council on Economic Advisers, during which time he was an advocate of Social Security privatization. He is a staunch defender of the Bush tax cuts and wrote an editorial in 2010 stating that, though he could afford higher tax rates, they would “make me work less.” The editorial was rife with problems and inconsistencies, as Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum and the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein noted at the time. Mankiw, who teaches at Harvard, also believes that income inequality is largely attributable to the fact that “some people care more about having a high income than others,” and uses that justification as a reason to oppose redistributive policies. Mankiw came under fire during his time in the Bush administration for making comments suggesting that outsourcing was good for the American economy; he later backed off those claims. Mankiw, however, has broken with conservative orthodoxy in key areas: he supported the Simpson-Bowles plan, which included revenue increases, and he is a proponent of instituting a nationwide carbon tax to fight climate change. He has also argued for higher inflation rates and he supported Federal Reserve action to bolster the economic recovery.
Weber served in Congress from 1983 to 1993 and later served as a regional chairman on Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign. Aside from being known as an architect of the 1994 “Republican Revolution” that led to a damaging government shutdown a year later, Weber is one of Washington’s biggest names in lobbying. He was named the city’s fifth most powerful lobbyist by Washingtonian Magazine in 2007, and he and the firm he co-founded have lobbied extensively for federal housing giant Freddie Mac (in the GOP primary, Romney criticized Newt Gingrich for lobbying on behalf of Freddie Mac). Weber drew fire this year for lobbying on behalf of the controversial Ukrainian government. Weber is also a proponent of cutting corporate taxes and loosening regulation, but he has distanced himself from traditional Republican orthodoxy at times. Like Hubbard, he supported the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan that included revenue increases, and he supports the Export-Import Bank, a new conservative target.
Former Missouri Senator Jim Talent has been acting as a Romney surrogate and adviser for months. Talent is now a co-chairman at Mercury Public Affairs, a lobbying and public strategy firms staffed by former members of Congress. As Salon reported, Talent lobbies on behalf of Mercury clients but he is not registered as a lobbyist, thus avoiding legal disclosure requirements about who he works for. Talent is featured in Romney’s jobs plan writing about the importance of coal mining while Peabody Energy — one of the largest coal producers in the world — pays Talent’s firm $125,000 a year. As a member of Congress, Talent co-sponsored legislation to move a percentage of all workers’ Social Security contribution to private accounts, but he walked back his privatization stance in 2006. A distinguished fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Talent also tiptoed around his strong ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, refunding thousands of dollars in campaign donations.
American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Kevin Hassett was Senator John McCain’s chief economic adviser during his 2000 presidential run, and also served as an economic adviser to George W. Bush in 2004 and to McCain again in 2008. A National Review columnist, Hassett has argued in favor of privatizing Social Security, whined over Democratic attempts to have hedge fund managers pay a larger tax on carried interest, and called Warren Buffett an “ignorant rube” for proposing a higher tax on the top 1 percent. Hassett has argued that the financial crisis was caused by the Democrats’ defense of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac alone, eschewing the notion that bank malpractice had anything to do with the meltdown. In 2001 when the idea suited a Republican administration, Hassett actually argued in favor of Keynesian fiscal policy during a recession, but of course he changed his tune when it came to Obama’s 2009 stimulus. And in perhaps his most notable move, Hassett penned a book titled “Dow 36,000” in 2000, explaining that the stock market would soon rise to more than 36,000 points. Just eight years later, the market collapsed, ultimately falling below 6,500 points in March 2009.