With Austan Gooslbee, Obama Stays the Course on Current Economic Strategy

The White House Council of Economic Advisers is a high-profile group these days, especially as President Obama tries to revive the economy at a pace quick enough to appease voters. For almost a week, it's had no leader, after former chair Christina Romer departed the West Wing to return to California. But during his press conference Friday, President Obama is expected to announce his choice of Austan Goolsbee to head the council—a decision certain to drive Obama's handling of the economic recovery over at least the next several months.

Goolsbee, a Yale graduate and self-proclaimed number cruncher, has worked in the White House since Obama's first month, and also advised candidate Obama on the campaign trail. Having a gift for working with data and being a good communicator, he often does PR for the administration in cable-news interviews and the occasional speech. One of his most remembered was a monologue at the Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest last year—which he won—where he performed a routine admitting that the economic team panicked when it got to Washington.

During the media kerfuffle over the past month to craft a short list of replacements, Goolsbee continually came up along with Laura Tyson, head of the council during the Clinton administration. But Goolsbee was always the easy choice. For one because he has already been confirmed by the Senate to advise the president on the economy (elevating a member of the council to the chairmanship doesn't require Senate approval). And also, compared to the other two members of the council, Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Obama has a deep and long-standing trust in Goolsbee; the two have been buddies since they were lecturers together at the University of Chicago.

Here's why Goolsbee's appointment matters: Obama's economic plan has faced fierce criticism over the past two years—in some circles for being too slow to work and in others for being an artificial and temporary effort by the government to create jobs. Bringing in a new voice would have been a public declaration that the current strategy isn't working, and that he'd like to try something different. But elevating Goolsbee to the top job signals that Obama plans to stay the course on his current plan, which includes targeted spending on things like infrastructure and clean energy, as well as tax cuts for small businesses and research institutions. The president has asked the public for more time for his economic recovery efforts to work. With the clock ticking, Goolsbee had better use it wisely.

With Austan Gooslbee, Obama Stays the Course on Current Economic Strategy | U.S.