Kevin Hassett is a great pick for CEA chair

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Author: James Pethokoukis

I was thrilled to see President Trump has announced his intent to nominate Kevin Hassett as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Kevin is a fantastic choice for CEA chair.

He is a first-class economist. He understands economics research, holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and has a distinguished record of peer-reviewed academic papers. His deep knowledge of economics and of the economics literature will enable him to give truly expert advice to the president and to others in the Trump administration.

In addition to his expert understanding of economics, he also understands public policy — he knows current policy, has great ideas about how to improve policy, knows how policy gets made and executed. And he is serious about the real-world impacts of policy — he cares about the substance. You can be sure that the substance of any decision will be at the forefront of Kevin’s advice to the president.

Kevin is committed to productive engagement with those who share his priors, and with those who don’t. I remember a conversation with him shortly after I started working at AEI. I told him that I wanted to host a panel discussion on a policy topic, and that I had a great speaker in mind who agreed with my view on the topic. Kevin told me that was great, but that I also needed to find the smartest, most serious person I could who disagreed with me, and put that person on the panel, too. That story tells you a lot about how Kevin approaches policy issues and the public debate. The president will be very well served by someone with Kevin’s eagerness to engage with and learn from those with whom he disagrees.

And Kevin understands Washington, and understands politics. Kevin is already at the top of the Washington learning curve. This is a huge advantage — Kevin will be starting on third base. His time as an economic adviser to GOP presidential candidates John McCain, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney means that Kevin already has significant firsthand experience in the rough-and-tumble intersection of economics and politics. AEI president Arthur Brooks is correct to observe that “for two decades, policymakers from both parties have sought [Kevin’s] counsel because of his reputation for rigorous and unbiased analysis” — Kevin has years of experience advising policymakers at the highest levels of government.

Kevin’s combinations of skills, attributes, and experience — an expert academic economist, deep knowledge of public policy, eagerness for productive engagement, understanding Washington — make him ideal for the job. The president, the Trump administration, and the country will be lucky to have someone of Kevin’s caliber as CEA chair.

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