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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 7, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Austan Goolsbee: International man of economic mystery

Today let’s reflect on a guy with a funny name who must have regrets. And I don’t mean the one who’s at the center of the latest “America, look over here!” distraction.

Austan Goolsbee is leaving his post as chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers to return to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. A longtime Obama adviser, Goolsbee “brought a mix of levity and a teacher’s sensibility to the job, using the White House blog, Facebook or YouTube to illustrate tax cuts, trade, or the auto industry resurgence on a dry-erase board with a dry wit and a gravel voice,” according to the Huffington Post.

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal gave this valedictory: “Mr. Goolsbee was one of several liberal economists on Mr. Obama’s team at the start of the administration, and he was the only one left after the departure of his predecessor at the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, and Vice President Joe Biden’s economic adviser, Jared Bernstein. Mr. Goolsbee turned out to be more of a pragmatist than Ms. Romer and Mr. Bernstein.”

The president issued a statement saying Goolsbee “has helped steer our country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” Really?

I wonder if Goolsbee has any regrets about the following: 1) Continuing the Bush policies of committing so much treasure to saving the big banks while demanding little reform in their risky/dodgy business practices; 2) The too-small and poorly targeted Obama stimulus; 3) Letting his boss spend a year crafting a highly complicated health-care overhaul that most Americans don’t understand and is a windfall for the big insurance companies, while 4) Not focusing nearly enough on unemployment and easing the pain on struggling families from the housing crash.

Nah. Goolsbee has a job. And to be fair, he was only one of a team of ineffectual or sold-out economic advisers, while the real deal in Paul Volcker was sidelined. Maybe he’ll teach a class about the lost opportunities of the Obama presidency. He can blame everything on Larry Summers (“Dr. Evil”).

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Manufacturing

A decade’s worth of decline

Tramples on green shoots

Comments | More in Bailout, Banking, Great Recession, Politics and the economy

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