President Barack Obama on Monday tapped one of the nation’s top labor economists, Alan Krueger, to become the next chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, a selection that underscores the president’s “urgent mission” to jump-start the economy.
Why is the selection of Krueger important? For one, the president decided he wanted to get reelected. So he selected Krueger because he isn’t known to be a former high level employee of Goldman Sachs or Citibank. The Princeton University professor also has performed legitimate research in the labor market. He discovered, for example, that raising the minimum wage of workers in the restaurant industry increases employment in that industry, most likely because it increases the demand for restaurant products. That is something, of course, that FDR knew way back in 1933. And Obama surely knew it last year and the year before, and a dozen years ago. But back in 2008, Obama instead chose to hire Goldman Sachs hacks as his economic advisers. Now that his job security is in jeopardy with the coming election, now that the only difference between Bush and Obama has been exposed (it takes the Republicans a few days more to get what they want under Obama than under Bush, as they continue to redistribute income from the middle class to the rich with Obama’s blessings) the president has decided to put on some working class window dressing so as to appear that he’s working on behalf of working people, which he isn’t, and which he has never intended to do.
“Alan brings a wealth of experience to the job. He’s one of the nation’s leading economists,” Obama said in White House Rose Garden as he introduced the Princeton economics professor, who from 2009 to 2010 served as the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist. “I have nothing but confidence in Alan as he takes on this important role in my economic team.”
Obama said he expects that Krueger will offer advice that is not driven by partisan politics, especially now that president cannot get any legislation passed without conceding to all of the Republican demands. “We need folks in Washington to make decisions based on what’s best for the country, not what’s best for any political party or special interest,” he said. Like he really expects to do that.
The nomination sets the tone for the administration’s jobs-focused fall, as the White House prepares to announce a major new jobs initiative after Labor Day. There are few prominent labor economists, and the president’s decision to pick one underscores the administration’s aims.
Obama emphasized that reviving the economy is his priority. “Next week, I will be laying out a series of steps that Congress can take immediately to put more money in the pockets of working families, middle-class families,” he said.
The president also pledged the federal government’s continued dedication to providing assistance to those who suffered damage in Hurricane Irene. “It’s going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude,” he said, especially in New England, where the storm set off major flooding.
If confirmed, Krueger would be Obama’s third CEA chairman, following Christina Romer and Austan Goolsbee, who left the White House this summer to return to his professorship at the University of Chicago.
Krueger, 50, arrived at Princeton in 1987, after finishing his Ph.D. at Harvard. Jointly appointed in the economics department and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Krueger has examined job growth, the effects of increases in the minimum wage and the long-term unemployed.
He spent a year-and-a-half in his previous Obama administration post, working on stimulus measures including the Cash for Clunkers program, Build America Bonds and the Hire America Act. He also served as chief economist at the Labor Department during part of the Clinton administration.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner praised the selection of Krueger, saying he is “one of the most distinguished” people to serve as assistant secretary for economic policy. “Given his expertise in labor economics, he is precisely the right choice to lead the CEA at this moment in history.”
Geithner weighed in on the pick, a Treasury source told POLITICO.
“We obviously said we were strongly supportive of Alan based on his excellent work as the assistant secretary for economic policy here,” said a source familiar with the conversations between the White House and Treasury.
Krueger’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, but he’s already cleared that process once in recent years — for the Treasury post — suggesting that the administration has confidence he’ll be able to easily do so again.
Perhaps the president has finally come to his senses, but since he can’t get anything passed through congress, he probably it won’t hurt his attempts to enrich Wall Street at the expense of working people. However, it’s likely the selection of Krueger will make no difference to working folks. His selection at the worst should do no harm, like the president did when he selected Timothy Geither and Lawrence Summers.