GOP Advisor Glenn Hubbard: An Interview

HUMAN EVENTS continues its series of interviews with key advisors to the top GOP presidential contenders. Who is giving advice and shaping policy and what can these confidantes tell us about the management style and temperament of these candidates?

We talked with Glenn Hubbard, co-chair of Governor Mitt Romney’s Economic Advisory Committee Hubbard is currently the Dean of Columbia University School of Business and previously served as the Chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. Hubbard also held the John M. Olin Fellowship at the National Bureau of Economic Research and is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Hubbard, a widely respected academician, did not shy away from controversy, pointing out his candidate’s strengths and lobbying a rhetorical volley at one of Romney’s opponents.

Why does Hubbard support Romney over other GOP hopefuls?

He says he thought Romney “was the smartest” of the contenders and the candidate with the best understanding of the ‘big economic problems” which we face. He stresses Romney’s executive experience as Governor, Chairman of the Olympic Games and as business executive, remarking that he believes these experiences demonstrate that Romney is a “practical problem solver” with the skills to implement his policy objectives. He notes that the day before the interview he spent eight hours with Romney, discussing policy and observing Romney absorb information and manage and direct his staff. These skills, says Hubbard, will be essential if a president wants to “get things accomplished.”

What would Romney’s tax policy look like?

Hubbard reiterates that Romney will make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He contends that the U.S. corporate tax rate is a “drain on competitiveness” and that Romney will present during the campaign a specific change to the corporate tax structure. He also says Romney will offer tax incentives for saving for the middle class. As for the Alternative Minimum Tax, Hubbard says reform of this provision will be part of an overall reform of the tax code.

How would Romney address excessive spending?

Hubbard points to Romney’s speeches advocating that discretionary spending be kept to 1% less than the CPI. However, Hubbard notes that the “big spending” is in entitlements. Romney believes the entitlement problem is an issue of spending too much, not taxing too little. He would look at “progressive” reforms of social security including retirement age adjustment and indexing of benefits where the reductions or modifications would not be “borne by the less well off.”

Is Romney’s Massachusetts health plan including government mandates for all individuals a model for a national Romney plan?

Hubbard cautiously defends Romney’s health care plan saying he was able to “accomplish market reforms in a given political environment.” When Romney addresses the country at large Hubbard suggests that it may not be a one size fits all approach. Romney, he says, will rely on “a lot of state experimentation.” Hubbard again stresses Romney’s extensive knowledge of the health care market as an asset to his prospective presidency.

In the wake of a policy announcement by Rudy Giuliani about tort reform and knowing Fred Thompson has opposed national tort reform, what does Romney think about frivolous  lawsuits and legal reform?

Hubbard became animated and stressed “Legal reform IS a big issue.” He cites legal reform as an example of the actions we must take to remove barriers which “hold back” continued economic progress and increased productivity. He bluntly says that “Failure to support legal reform is a big mistake.”

What other steps would Romney take to maintain America’s competitiveness in the global economy?

Hubbard starts by emphasizing that “We live in a wonderful country and only the U.S. had a productivity miracle.” He says that it is essential to preserve the aspects of our economy which make us successful including flexible markets and access to capital. He also thinks it essential to give American workers incentives to “keep their skills fresh” and address international issues like defense of our intellectual property. He notes that it is “enormously important” to maintain free trade and that Romney believes it crucial to explain to ordinary Americans the benefits of free trade and to work to ensure that the gains made from trade are “shared” throughout the economy.