UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Bankrupting America : advisory entrepreneurship, fiscal competence and the presidency 1977-2009 Gillies, James Clark


This study focuses on the presidential advisory system through the lens of fiscal policy in order to develop a better understanding of how modern presidents utilize their advisers and how through a process of advisory entrepreneurship, advisers compete among each other for the president’s attention and time. A set of ideal types of presidential advisers is developed in an effort to shift away from studying the presidency through traditional notions of staff hierarchies and management of the White House to the actual selection of advisers. This research traces fiscal policymaking from the Carter administration through the administration of George W. Bush by using a qualitative case study approach, with elite interviews and a quantitative test of ideal adviser types on fiscal policy, to provide a view of the decision making process inside the White House that often gets submerged in larger institutional studies of Washington. The study also offers an important perspective in explaining how presidents can veer away from fiscal competence. Presidential advisory systems matter a great deal to the policies that get passed through Congress. The fiscal policies themselves are the mark of what presidential advisers often decide is best for the country. Therefore providing the background and narrative of the roles these advisers play gives insight into how presidents confront their economic realities and how designing policies that appeal to the national interest can be sometimes, at best, a second or third priority. The case of presidential advisers and fiscal policy across these five presidential administrations provides instances of fiscal competence, when an administration crafts ways to have government live within its means and design policies that for the most part appeal to and benefit the majority of Americans. It also provides instances of fiscal incompetence, in which presidents ignore long-established truths and principles to push the country off of a sensible economic footing often for the benefit of those who elected them, and instances in which administrations aim for fiscal prudence but alienate the public in doing so because the policies enacted do not reflect the campaign promises made by the incumbents.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International