Jonathan Chait

Roger Altman And Washington's Structural Pro-Business Bias

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Bloomberg News reports that Roger Altman recently interviewed to replace Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council. I'm generally pretty sympatico with Clintonite moderates like Altman and their progressive fiscal conservatism. At the same time, people like Altman both reflect and create the massive structural upper-class bias in Washington policymaking. Here's Altman writing last December in an otherwise sensible Wall Street Journal op-ed:

A third step involves the party's deteriorating relations with industry. This relationship must be fixed because the views of industry often coincide with those of independent voters. The commitment to address the deficit would help, together with moderate regulatory policy on telecommunications and antitrust, and adding one or two businessmen or women to senior levels of the administration.

The notion that business leaders represent some reflection of main street America, rather than an interest group whose policy preferences often differ with the public's as a whole, is commonplace. When you think about it, it's ridiculous. I commented on Altman's op-ed at the time. There are any number of issues -- TARP, free trade, progressive taxation -- where business, for better or worse, has very different views than the majority of Americans.

You'd never see somebody asserting without evidence in a mainstream forum that the views of labor reflect the views of independent voters. Or, at least, somebody who wrote that would never be in a position to run something like the N.E.C. Yet that's the sort of person who can get hired in a Democratic administration. And the people who get hired in Republican administrations are dramatically more right-wing than that.

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