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CEA: Bannished and Vacant

The Washington Post reported today that the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) is physically being booted off the White House grounds, and is being relocated to 18th and G streets (along with other heavy hitting departments such as the Office of Presidential Correspondence.)
In addition, two of the three CEA positions are vacant, and Mankiw has yet to be confirmed.
The Council of Economic Advisors has, for many years, and as long as I can remember, been seen as the part of the White House economic team that provides (relatively) unbiased and non-political economic advice and analysis to the president and other members of the administration. The most visible product of the council is the Economic Report of the President, but the council has, historically, produced other reports that make their way to the president’s desk.
Its chairman and three members (as well as supporting researchers) are usually drawn primarily (if not exclusively) from academia. The past and future chairs, Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw, for example, are well respected economics professors from Columbia and Harvard. (Both of whom happen to go by their middle name… hmmm… just a coincidence? or is there something nefarious going on.) Paul Krugman, for example, served in the CEA under Ronald Reagan!
I hope the change in location does not indicate a reduced role for the CEA. Good economic policy must be based on honest, competent economic policy assessment; and the CEA under past administrations have strived to provide this kind of analysis, and strived to be largely independent of politics.
However, from what I hear, proximity is often an indication of influence in the inside-the-beltway political game. The decline in the influence of the CEA in the current administration is a potentially troubling turn of affairs.

‘CEA You Later,’ Bush Says (washingtonpost.com)
The Council of Economic Advisers is going into exile.
Beginning Wednesday, President Bush’s economists will pack up their files and move out of the White House complex, an eviction after more than 50 years, and enter new space a couple of blocks away at 1800 G St. NW.
The official line is that this is not a demotion for the CEA. “Absolutely not,” said White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee. “It’s a space-management issue.”
Bush aides are well aware, however, that few people in town are going to accept that explanation. In the White House, where proximity is power, an eviction from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is the political equivalent of being sent to Elba. The CEA will be sharing space at 18th and G with such crucial functions as the Office of Presidential Correspondence.
Heightening suspicion is the state of upheaval at the CEA, where two of the three seats are vacant and the third is soon to be.
The organization is without a chairman; Greg Mankiw has not been confirmed to replace Glenn Hubbard, who announced his resignation Feb. 26. The seat vacated last fall by Mark McClellan is still empty (Bush plans to nominate Princeton’s Harvey Rosen). The only sitting member of the CEA, Randall S. Kroszner, is due back at the University of Chicago; unofficial word is he’ll be replaced by MIT’s Kristin Forbes. The office is also getting a new chief economist, the third in that job this year.

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