Monday, January 8, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 8, 2001

Bush economy meeting sent the wrong signal

Whatever you think of the politics of George Bush’s new Cabinet (and we worry, frankly, about the civil rights politics of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft), it certainly is diverse.

Bush has assembled a Cabinet that, to borrow a phrase, "looks like America." Not an unimportant signal in America these days.

But when it comes to sending signals, Bush followed his Cabinet appointment winner with a real loser. He convened a private conference on the U.S. economy that was made up of some 35 top-level corporate executives, almost all of them white and male.

And they had another distinction: According to the Washington Post, this group collectively contributed more than $1.6 million to Bush and the Republican Party during the last campaign.

The only representative from the other side of the equation came from one person who is with the Consumer Federation of America.

Overall, it appears that this wealthy group told Bush they were enthusiastic about his proposed $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan, as well they should be.

But this meeting should be seen in the context of Bush’s campaign complaints about President Clinton’s habit of inviting campaign contributors to the White House for coffee.

It is wrong, Bush suggested, to signal that access to the president and his policy-making agenda can be bought with contributions or special influence.

Exactly so. And that was precisely the signal generated by this series of private economic meetings. If the president-elect is truly in search of a broad and useful mix of advice and thought on the economic picture, his next list should be considerably more, well, diverse.

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