Summers, batting for Rubin

Treasury: No policy change likely to disturb nation's economic growth or world recovery.

May 14, 1999

THE DEPARTURE of Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin could have been cause for alarm. He is, after all, the heaviest hitter on Team Clinton, the chief architect of much that has gone right. Had Mr. Rubin departed during the impeachment scandal, it might have destabilized Wall Street.

But Mr. Rubin waited. It was known he wanted to get back to private finance. So Wednesday, calm confidence greeted President Clinton's announcement of Mr. Rubin's resignation and the the nomination of his deputy, Lawrence H. Summers, as successor.

This signals no change in the policies that have brought an unbroken eight-plus years of economic growth with no inflation. It implies continued harmony between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board.

The choice of Mr. Summers sends a powerful message to the world to expect more of the same. He has been point man for influencing the International Monetary Fund to require higher interest rates, spending cuts and open markets in collapsed economies seeking bailouts.

It is a prescription that caused much pain to people caught in recessions. But it seems to be working, with increasing evidence of economies righting themselves.

Continuity in Treasury policies began with President Clinton's first secretary, former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Texas politician, through Mr. Rubin, a Wall Street bond trader, and now Mr. Summers, an academic economist. Mr. Summers' deputy will be the Clinton administration's link with past Democratic administrations, Stuart E. Eizenstat, a Washington lawyer in out years who served the Clinton administration in economic diplomacy.

The moral is that no one resume is right. It's policy that matters.

As economic adviser and Treasury secretary, Mr. Rubin converted the Clinton administration to Republican virtues of balanced budgets and open markets.

He persuaded Mr. Clinton to end deficits, marrying fiscal conservatism to liberal social goals. Abroad, he helped to globalize markets. Mr. Rubin built a policy edifice that should last, with or without his personal supervision.

Pub Date: 5/14/99

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