Goolsbee's Gone: Another Top Obama Econ Advisor Exits

Jun 7, 2011

A Monday night announcement has shaken things up in Obama's economic team. Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is packing his bags, heading back to Chicago to resume his teaching gig. What does the exit of a man central to the crafting of Obama's economic policies for the past two-and-a-half years really mean? Roosevelt Institute fellows weigh in.

"Anyone who is a good economist does not want to be associated with the policies of this Administration that has turned a blind eye to idle resources and tragic levels of unemployment."
-Robert Johnson, Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute

"There shouldn't be a wet eye in the place. Goolsbee's legacy is wretched: He approved of bailing out the banks, insisted that prosperity was just around the corner, and recently kept repeating that the private sector must drive recovery, in the face of overwhelming evidence that recoveries from financial crashes take years if the government does not move vigorously to offset private sector deleveraging and caution. But it's an ill wind that blows no one any good: Now the President has yet another vacancy to fill; at least there is a chance that somebody who takes to heart the great lesson of the New Deal -- that government can stimulate the economy if it doesn't lose its nerve (as in 1937 and, it appears, now) -- can find a place in the White House."
-Thomas Ferguson, Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute and Professor of Political Science, U Mass, Boston

"Goolsbee is another champion of the 'fiscal austerity lite' ideology that continues to wreak havoc on the US economy. As one of the President's main economic spokesmen, he has championed the Administration's Wall Street-centric approach, notably in regard to the bailouts. These programs have fostered the impression that there is already plenty of fiscal related stimulus, though virtually all employment measures indicate that full recovery is far from accomplished and many needs that are more pressing remain unaddressed. He won't be missed."
-Marshall Auerback, Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute

"Austan Goolsbee is a well-trained and by all accounts affable economist. But these have been unusual times and he seemed unequal to them. The current administration policy is a wish and prayer that GDP will grow at 3 to 4 percent a year. It is construed that this will be sufficient to get the president elected as the unemployment rate, if high, starts to fall consistently.

As I have noted before, the risks to that forecast are very high. This seems lost on an administration, and perhaps on Goolsbee. They are unwilling to take the action needed, despite the political obstacles, to keep the economy growing. To the extent Goolsbee contributed to this, he wil not be well-remembered and his leaving may be useful. This of course depends on his replacement, about which there is no reason to be optimistic.

But the main issue is that this Administration has never evinced a passion about the loss of jobs in this economy and the suffering and confusion of tens of millions of Americans. Goolsbee was in a position to make this clear to the president. Apparently, he did not. There is no jobs program, no outrage about levels of unemployment, no anger at nonsense written about structural unemployment. Goolsbee seemed to be one of those people who didn't want to rock the boat much. We need a boat rocker."
-Jeff Madrick, Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute

"I hope he has a few million apologies ready for the foreclosure victims he did nothing to help."
-Matt Stoller, Fellow, Roosevelt Institute

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