Bad news: Krugman won't take Treasury job

Well, it’s bad news for Danny Glover and MoveOn, anyway.  They started a grassroots movement to get the New York Times columnist an appointment to Barack Obama’s Cabinet in replacement of the departing Tim Geithner.  MoveOn even sent a petition request to its large e-mail list, demanding a Paul Krugman nomination:

Hollywood actor and liberal activist Danny Glover is trying to send a message to President Barack Obama: “Nominate Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary.”

Obama has yet to tap anyone to fill the slot, soon to be left vacant by outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. On Sunday the liberal advocacy group blasted out an email message from Glover encouraging members to sign a petition to Obama urging Krugman’s nomination.

“Press speculation has centered on candidates likely to support the Wall Street agenda of cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits and other domestic spending rather than government policies to create jobs,” the “Lethal Weapon” actor wrote.

“We want President Obama to nominate Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who opposes austerity and wants the government to focus on creating jobs,” he added. …

“We urge you to nominate Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary,” the petition reads. “Krugman will protect Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts, promote policies to create jobs, and help defeat the austerity dogma in Washington and around the world.”

As for Krugman himself, he seems a little more tied to reality than Glover or MoveOn — and that’s saying something for a man who proposed faking a space-alien invasion in order to overcome opposition to government work projects.  In a blog post this morning, Krugman withdrew his name from consideration, mainly because it would “actually reduce my influence”:

So first of all, let’s talk frankly about the job I have. The New York Times isn’t just some newspaper somewhere, it’s the nation’s paper of record. As a result, being an op-ed columnist at the Times is a pretty big deal — one I’m immensely grateful to have been granted — and those who hold the position, if they know how to use it effectively, have a lot more influence on national debate than, say, most senators. Does anyone doubt that the White House pays attention to what I write?

Now, officials inside the administration can of course have even more influence — but only if they’re good at a very different kind of game, that of persuading the president and his inner circle in behind-closed-doors discussion. And everything I know about myself says that I’m not very good at that game.

By my reckoning, then, an administration job, no matter how senior, would actually reduce my influence, leaving me unable to say publicly what I really think and all too probably finding myself unable to make headway in internal debates.

Well, I did say Krugman was a little more tied to reality.  At any rate, we’ll have to just be satisfied with the occasional space-alien column, while Obama and his new Treasury Secretary pursue redistributionism somewhat less purely than MoveOn, Danny Glover, and Paul Krugman prefer.

More seriously, that’s beginning to look more like current White House chief of staff Jack Lew, writes Nancy Cook at National Journal:

As early as this week when President Obama returns to Washington from his Hawaii vacation, he’s expected to name his next Treasury Secretary—with all signs pointing toward the nomination of Jacob ‘Jack’ Lew.

Lew possesses the impeccable resume of a long-time Washington insider. He now works as the White House chief-of-staff and has earned the trust of the president in a very short period of time for no-drama approach and deep knowledge of fiscal matters. His previous tours of duty include stints in two administrations as budget director and as a former top policy advisor to the Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

Any major landmark budget legislation of the past 20 years has involved Lew. He helped to cut the 1997 balanced budget deal under President Clinton and the 1983 Social Security legislation, which has kept the entitlement program solvent for the past two decades.

But it won’t be easy:

House Republicans strongly dislike Lew. GOP members and staffers negotiated with him on the debt ceiling deal in the summer of 2011: an experience that left them with deep-seated, raw feelings of disdain for a man they view as condescending, too liberal, and unable to get to “yes” in a negotiation.

“Always trying to protect the sacred cows of the left” was the way Speaker Boehner’s former chief-of-staff, Barry Jackson, described Lew in Bob Woodward’s book, The Price of Politics. Republican sources in the book also characterized Lew as someone “who tried to explain why Democrats’ view of the world was right and the Republicans’ wrong.” That bad blood still exists.

That won’t matter in Lew’s confirmation, but it will add to the combative character of Obama’s Cabinet in the second term.