I'd planned to give you today a hard assessment of Paul O'Neill's confirmation hearing before Senate Finance Committee, but the first impressions I'd collected in reading the news accounts of his testimony were not sufficient. The New York Times account this morning was especially disheartening, making him sound like a beancounter. I've quickly run through the hearings as recorded by C-SPAN and available on the internet and find he is more promising than the accounts I'd seen. The NYT account indicates he has less interest in tax cutting than Bush and would rely more upon monetary policy to get the economy moving. That's an exaggeration. He does see the world through a conventional demand model lens, but I was very impressed with his personal commitment to tax simplification. This is something President-elect Bush never mentioned in the campaign, and I had considered it a hopeless cause until I watched O'Neill earlier this afternoon. He believes "our tax system is not worthy of an advanced civilization." This is great news. In addition, there is sufficient nuance in the responses he gave in the hearings for me to withhold further judgement until I go through the 3-hour session without interruption -- which I will do tonight, with a more considered report tomorrow.
If you have nothing better to do, you can also watch the C-SPAN replay online (http://video.c-span.org:8080/ramgen/hdrive/c2k011701_oneill.rm).