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Former Top Obama Economist: 'National Debate Over Economic Policy is Way Off Track' | The Nation

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Former Top Obama Economist: 'National Debate Over Economic Policy is Way Off Track'

For more than two years, Jared Bernstein was Joe Biden’s chief economic adviser and the sole progressive economist on President Obama’s economic team. He stepped down in April to work for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and just yesterday launched a blog, which will be a must-read for analysis of these turbulent economic times.

In his introductory post, Bernstein denies that he left the administration “because ideas that I was associated with, like more stimulus, are off the table… I left because I was frustrated. Not with what was going on inside the White House, but with what is going on outside. The national debate over economic policy is way off track and the stakes are as high as can be.

“As the 2012 election season gears up,” Bernstein writes, “we are poised to have a fundamental debate about the size and role of the federal government.” Yet neither party, he says, is leveling with the American public about the choices we face. Explains Bernstein:

“Conservatives essentially argue we can have it all for less: get government “out-of-the-way” and health care, job growth, investment, upward mobility, would be enhanced, not diminished.   These claims are difficult to defend using facts—as opposed to assertion—and part of this blog will be devoted to sorting through them.

Democrats lately seemed to be trapped in a position that amounts to: ‘sure, we have to cut and shrink—just not as much as the other guys want.

There’s got to be a better way—a way to widen this terribly narrow debate.

Why couldn’t I do more to help from the inside? One reason is that in order to move the ball forward, you need consensus, and in today’s politics, that is particularly elusive. And that makes it especially hard to call out people and their arguments. There’s a reason why Jon Stewart can speak truths that highly-placed elected officials cannot. When you’re on the inside at a time like this, you’re constantly balancing the risk of losing the support of people you need to lead.”

Today Republicans are rapidly distancing themselves from Paul Ryan’s plan to gut the social safety net and redistribute income upwards. But the Obama Administration has been faulted by its own supporters—including Christina Romer, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers—for not doing more to stimulate the economy, and for not taking a harder line with Congressional Republicans during negotiations over the budget deficit and debt ceiling. The public could fairly conclude the neither party has a plan to end the recession. Let’s hope that Bernstein’s blog will shine a light on how Washington works—and doesn’t.  

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