Barack Obama was supported by many independents, along with those who wanted a change from the Republican policies but weren’t necessarily supporters of Democratic orthodoxy, believing that Obama would govern significantly different from Hillary Clinton. While I was not going to judge Obama based upon his appointments before taking office as opposed to by what he does in office, it did raise some concern that so many of his appointees were from the Clinton administration. I continued to have hope that Obama’s policies would still show significant differences, even if he was often forced to rely upon appointees from the only recent Democratic administration. Today’s appointment of Cass Sunstein, author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, provides greater hope that the Obama administration really will be listening to different ideas.
Sunstein was appointed to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, suggesting that we might really see changes in how government regulation is viewed. The Wall Street Journal raises a past interview with Sunstein:
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Mr. Sunstein said Mr. Obama was intrigued by “law and behavioral economics” as an approach to regulation that would avoid ideological extremes.
Mr. Obama believes in “doing law in a way that’s realistically based on human behavior,” Mr. Sunstein said. “He’s a University of Chicago Democrat, so he’s very attuned to the virtue of free markets and the risks of free-market regulation. He’s not an old-style Democrat who’s excited about regulations” for their own sake.
Mr. Sunstein said the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides money to the working poor, was “a way of lifting people out of poverty” superior to old-style welfare payments.
I did find it amusing during the campaign when Obama was attacked as being a socialist for suggesting policies along these lines by some conservatives considering that such ideas are variations of the negative income tax initially advocated by Milton Friedman.
Besides the influence on government regulation, the appointment of Cass Sunstein will result in another potential benefit. Sunstein will presumably be bringing his wife, Samantha Power, to Washington. This will be of value should Obama require any reminders that Hillary Clinton is a monster, along with maintaining the Austan-Power influence on the Obama administration.