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Tag Archives: Austan Goolsbee

Austan Goolsbee’s Departing Deception on Jobs

This is White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee’s last week on the job, and he decided to leave us with some nonsense on the employment picture, which worsened today.

That’s right, worsened. Don’t believe the headlines or the White House. Definitely don’t believe the White House.

Let’s start with what actually happened. The economy in July generated 117,000 jobs and the unemployment rate declined from 9.2 percent ot 9.1 percent.

This is nice until you remember that the economy needs to create about 150,000 jobs just to keep pace with the growing work force. The decline in the unemployment rate was not due to the new jobs, but to people giving up searching for jobs. They are then not counted as unemployed, since they are not even looking.

Now, July was better than June, and the numbers were better than expected. But overall, we’re in worse shape than we were.

Let’s look at how Goolsbee spun this in his statement out of the White House today, which opens as follows:

Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 154,000 in July and the unemployment rate ticked down to 9.1 percent.  The economy has added 2.4 million private sector jobs over the past 17 months, despite a slowdown in economic growth from substantial headwinds in the first half of the year.

Whoops! Read carefully. Looks like job creation got above the magic 150,000 number. But Goolsbee is talking about private sector jobs. The public sector is loosing jobs, particularly in states and localities, which are strapped for cash.

The overall number, 117,000 jobs created, is buried lower in the statement.

The White House does this every month – focusing on private sector jobs. Public sector employees would probably be surprised to discover that they matter less to President Obama.

In an interview with Bloomberg today, Goolsbee amped up the deception. Again, read closely. You really have to watch these people.

I believe that puts us at around 2.4 million jobs created over the last 17 months . . . If we are growing, adding 2.4 million jobs over 17 months, those are not the things a double-dip recession looks like.”

He means, as he said above, 2.4 million private sector jobs. The overall number created is less.

Goodbye Austan, and good riddance.

Obama Reels Goolsbee’s Spin Back In

President Obama today contradicted his senior economic adviser, suggesting more concern about Friday’s lame jobs report than Counsel of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee has been letting on.

During a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama revealed that there must be fear in the White House that the report – which said the unemployment rate had lifted from 9 to 9.1 percent while the economy created only 54,000 jobs – is a sign that hiring was stalling.

This month, you still saw job growth in the private sector, but it had slowed down. We don’t yet know whether this is a one month episode or a longer trend.

On Friday morning however, Goolsbee brushed off the report, whistling merrily that it was little more than a “bump in the road.”

There are always bumps on the road to recovery, but the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years . . .

The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision.  Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

Many economists saw it differently, pegging the jobs number as a sign of a weak recovery. The Dow agreed, closing down nearly 100 points Friday. So Obama apparently decided the happy talk was no longer credible.

Goolsbee will be departing, taking with him his endless reservoir of voluptuous spin. It will now be left to a much less talented sophist, the nasal National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, to take over the job of pretending all economic news is good news though “there’s still work to be done.”

The president today added, though, that he is not concerned about the return of the recession. He may not be, but if he went as far as saying he thought there could be another recession, he knows he might very well cause one.

Note to one of our readers, Granny Jan, who has produced a video on the confusing array of items on Obama’s mind when he goes to sleep and when he wakes up: Obama thinks about jobs upon rising.

But we’ve still got some enormous work to do, and as long as there are some folks out there who are unemployed looking for work, then every morning when I wake up I’m going to be thinking about how we can get them back to work.

In his remarks today, Obama also gave Merkel something of a verbal back rub, letting her off the hook for her failure to actively join the NATO operation in Libya.

With regard to Libya, I’d note that Germany’s deployment of additional resources and personnel to Afghanistan has allowed other NATO allies to increase their support for the mission to protect the Libyan people.

And there is going to be a lot of work to do when Gadhafi does step down, in terms of getting the Libyan people back on their feet; economic, political work that’s going to have to be done. And my expectation is going to be that there will be full and robust German support, as there has been in the past from Germany on a wide range of issues.

Sounds like a true COP OUT to me.

Give her a little grief, dammit. As she mentioned today, we have 50,000 troops in her country ensuring that the Germans can celebrate Oktoberfest without having to sing Moscow Nights. It’s not like we asked them to send the whole Luftwaffe over to help us get Qaddafi out, for goodness sake.

White House Economic Adviser Goolsbee Resigns

White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee is resigning, the White House said tonight.

In a press release that seemed timed to appear after the evening newscasts, the White House gave no reason for Goolsbee’s departure, although it said he would return to Chicago in time to “return to his position” at the University of Chicago.

Austan Goolsbee
Austan Goolsbee in the East Room earlier this year with Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod. Photo by Keith Koffler

But having only assumed his current posting at the pinacle of economic power just last September, it can be assumed a heated desire to teach is not the main thing pushing Goolsbee out the door. He is either leaving for personal reasons – like his wife is tired of never seeing him – or he’s not getting along with someone at the White House.

It’s possible also, however, that this is the beginning of a few more departures we will see in coming weeks that will be caused by the upcoming campaign.

Any White House prefers not to have people leave during the campaign – obviously, it doesn’t look great. As occurred at about the same time during Bush’s first term, people are probably being asked to either leave now or commit to staying on through the election. It could be that Goolsbee didn’t want another full 18 months in the job.


He appears to be departing on good terms with President Obama, who issued a laudatory statement crediting Goolsbee with helping turn around the economy and calling him “one of America’s great economic thinkers.”

Likewise Goolsbee said of Obama:

I believe that his judgment, his courage in confronting the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and his commitment to the American people have made a tremendous difference for the nation.

I assume we should know more soon about why Goolsbee is really leaving. Though a loyal Obama adviser who has formally or informally advised the president for much of his career as a national politician, Goolsbee is a pro-free trade centrist, so it’s possible there were some things going on that he disagreed with.

Goolsbee had become the most visible CEA Chairman in recent memory. An amateur comedian and champion debater, he was adept at presenting confusing economic issues in a clear and even entertaining manner.

Whatever his prowess as an economist, the White House is losing an effective spokesman on the economy.

Austan Goolsbee, Partisan CEA Chairman

One of the changes President Barack Obama has brought to Washington is the refashioning of the formerly staid White House Council of Economic Advisers into a new presidential political attack machine.

Austan Goolsbee, the new CEA Chairman, is hardly the fussy old economist-type who once in sat atop the Council. Oh, he’s an economist alright, but he’s also a former national debating champion, an ex-TV program host, a kind of part-time comedian, and an adviser to Obama’s campaigns. He’s not going to sit in some musty old office perusing dry tabulations of data.

He’s getting out there and helping Obama stick it to the Republicans.

Which is odd, because, ACCORDING TO THE WHITE HOUSE WEBSITE, here’s what he’s supposed to be doing:

The Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the Executive Office of the President, is charged with offering the President objective economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy. The Council bases its recommendations and analysis on economic research and empirical evidence, using the best data available to support the President in setting our nation’s economic policy.


See if you think this sounds objective.

Hmmm. Sounds like kind of a pitchman to me. This is not your father’s CEA Chairman. Here are a few of your father’s CEA Chairmen.

Believe it or not, the first and second guy are different people. I mean, these guys were cut from a mold. They wouldn’t know a teleprompter if you threw one at them. But Austan is different.

Perhaps Austan’s role fits with the president’s presumption that his views must be correct and opposition can only be motivated by political animus.

So let’s kind of act like economists and do a calculation.

If Subjective Obama=Objective, and Austan=Subjective Obama, and Austan=CEA Advice, then CEA Advice=Objective.

It works!

Some Republicans have noticed that the CEA is now an institution that needs taking on. Former Bush White House National Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey, who runs his own blog, recently put together this video to counter Goolsbee’s “White Board,” which is shaping up to be a new White House website institution.

It’s a little long, but if you stick with it you’ll get an interesting preview of the early stages of a debate that will be with us for many years.

Austan’s Powers

With the elevation of Austan Goolsbee to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Obama continues move briskly to the center as he sets the stage for his eventual reelection campaign.

Having dispensed with the most liberal items on his agenda, like the nationalization of health care and the increase of spending by a couple of trillion dollars, the president is now presenting himself as a deficit hawk, champion of the middle class, and a tax cutter.

goolsbee and Obama
Obama Channels Austan

Goolsbee, who comes out of the conservative University of Chicago business school, is a moderate-liberal economist who backs free trade. “He seems to be the sort of person – amiable, empirical and reasonable – you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be,” wrote George Will in October 2007 as the Obama candidacy began its ascent into the stratosphere.

Goolsbee’s slippery claim Sunday that the “Summer of Recovery” that saw no recovery referred only to the “Recovery Act” – that is, the stimulus – should not be surprising to those who have heard his skillful management of words.

I listened once in awe as Goolsbee mercilessly destroyed Douglas Holtz-Eakin during a joint appearance in 2008. Rarely have I felt so sorry for someone on the losing end of a debate, so badly was Holtz-Eakin taken apart.

It was later that I understood why. Goolsbee won the national high school extemporaneous speaking championship, the national collegiate team debate championship while at Yale, and performed with an improvisational comedy troop while at the university.

That is, he’s good on his feet, and will probably take the lead in pitching the Obama economic program. And, you can expect more improvisational comedy with respect to the “recovery.”