With the tea-party movement dictating Washington's economic policies, the Obama adviser leaves behind a frustrating job
The oddest thing about the timing is this: Austan Goolsbee had so clearly won the power struggle.
(RELATED: Goolsbee to Leave White House)
Marginalized by Larry Summers in the first two years of the Obama administration, Goolsbee had come into his own in the scant eight months since he became chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Summers was gone, as was Goolsbee's predecessor, Christina Romer. Even more than most CEA chairmen do, Goolsbee had emerged as the administration's chief economic voice, appearing regularly on the Sunday talk shows.
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But therein lay a deeper problem: the chief voice of what? Of policies that, frankly, no economist worth his Ph.D. would want to tout, occurring in an intellectual vacuum in which good economic thinking was no longer welcome. [See "Neo-Voodoo Economics," NJ, 5/21/11] During Goolsbee's obscure first two years in Washington -- when he mainly served as spokesman for the little-heeded Paul Volcker, the head of Obama's largely cosmetic Economic Recovery Advisory Board -- the administration had squandered its chance to do a deeper and more expansive stimulus, which was so clearly needed. And the opportunity didn't come around again.
Goolsbee's precise role in those early debates was not clear. What is known is that Goolsbee, an empiricist, had usually aligned himself with more progressive voices despite his tenure at the University of Chicago. He is believed to have sided with Volcker on the tougher regulation of Wall Street and economist Joseph Stiglitz and others on the need for much more stimulus. But "I didn't have much influence and neither did Austan," Volcker told National Journal on Tuesday.