Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama Nominates Blahous as Social Security Trustee

In one of his best moves to date, President Obama nominated Chuck Blahous to be one of Social Security's public trustees. Here's the announcement:


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 14, 2009

President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate
Charles Blahous as Member of the Board of Trustees
of the Social Security Trust Funds

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Charles Blahous as Member of The Board of Trustees of the Social Security Trust Funds.

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual today:

Charles Blahous, Nominee for Member, Board of Trustees of the Social Security Trust Funds

Chuck Blahous is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, specializing in domestic economic policy. Prior to joining the Hudson Institute, Blahous served as Deputy Director of President Bush's National Economic Council. From 2001-2007, Blahous served as a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, first covering retirement security issues and later also encompassing energy policy. In 2001, Blahous served as the Executive Director of the bipartisan President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, co-chaired by Dick Parsons and the late U.S. Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (D-NY), which submitted a unanimous report to President Bush in December, 2001. From 2000-01, Blahous led the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security. From 1996-2000, he served as Policy Director for U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), staffing the Senator's co-chairmanship of the National Commission on Retirement Policy, as well as the Senator's initiatives in retirement and health care reform. From 1989-96, Blahous served in the office of Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), first as a Congressional Science Fellow sponsored by the American Physical Society, and in 1994-96 as the Senator's Legislative Director. There, Blahous staffed the Senator on the bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. Blahous has a Ph.D. in computational quantum chemistry from the University of California/Berkeley, and an A.B. from Princeton University, where he won the McKay Prize in Physical Chemistry.

One small comment: As much as White House officials are often accused of controlling the Social Security Trustees process, this may be the first time that Chuck – perhaps the longest serving economic policy staffer in the Bush White House – will attend a Trustees meeting or truly get involved in the process. It's a very interesting and important process, though, and one which Chuck is suited for and will enjoy.


Bruce Webb said...

Wow. On the bright side Obama is demonstrating some commitment to the concept of bi-partisanship by appointing a Public Trustee that actually represents the Republican/Conservative position. On the down side. Hmm I don't see a downside. Unless Obama appoints some 'sensible centrist' as the mandated Democratic public trustee. Because it would be nice to see a public trustee actually representing the vision of Frances Perkins and FDR. I don't ask that we pack the Trustees in quite the same way CSSS was but gosh can't liberals have one?

Congratulations to Chuck Blahous. A good choice for the Republican spot. But it bothers me some that he was nominated first.

Andrew G. Biggs said...

Traditionally each party gets to nominate one person, although the opposing party's nominee has to pass muster with the WH. I don't know if there's been a Democratic nominee, although the rumor I'd heard was Robert Reischauer, who's fairly traditionalist on Social Security reform issues.

That said, I'm not sure the Obama administration would nominate someone with a true "FDR view" of the program since, as I argued here ( Obama himself doesn't seem in tune with FDR's vision for the program.

Bruce Webb said...

Well that is the problem. Reichschauer seems to have fully committed to the Brookings-Heritage 'Saving Our Fiscal Future' project (I believe he was a signatory, certainly the Urban Institute is a party) which I see as a front for the PGP/Concord/Cooper-Wolf/Conrad-Gregg/'Bi-Partisan Commission' proposal to replicate CSSS, that is to bypass Congressional progressives by presenting a BRAC style up or down measure that has 'entitlements crisis' baked into the pie. Just as CSSS had private accounts being a mandatory element and any payroll tax based solution ruled out a priori.

It is all too reminescent of your suggestion that debate on Social Security should start by bracketing the debate with CSSS model 2 on the right and Diamond-Orszag on the left, leaving Dean Baker and humble acolytes like me looking forlornly on from the 'fringe'.

Andrew G. Biggs said...

There's certainly room for folks who question the future economic/demographic projections, but there should also be a recognition that a strong majority think that SSA Trustees/CBO are in the right ballpark. If you wanted to propose a flexible framework (as you have, and as I've discussed here: I think that's fine. But I'm not sure Dean or you have ever come down and said exactly how big you think the problem will be and why (e.g., your estimate of the future actuarial deficit and what changes in variables drive that estimate).