Revenge of the Neo-Liberals

Revenge of the Neo-Liberals


The Obama campaign announced today it was bringing Jason Furman on board as an economic policy adviser. Furman’s smart, and generally well respected and I don’t begrudge him his new post. But Steve Clemons makes an important point:

[E]ssentially, both Goolsbee and Jason Furman are serious economists who generally subscribe to a neoliberal economic policy framework. They would be called “free traders” for the most part — and because no free trade is really a free trade deal given the thousands of pages and negotiated side arrangements that comprise an FTA, it’s fairly easy for each to say that they are on the side of working families and want to prevent the worst impacts from hitting the American middle class while in theory, they would prefer to see a genuine, frictionless free trade system in which efficiencies are created throughout the economic ecosystem.

Furman (a friendly acquaintance of mine and close associate of one of my New America Foundation colleagues) is also well known for his budget-hawkery. He has been part of the Democratic Party economic class that has successfully stolen from the Republicans the ethic of fiscal conservatism and advocates a Social Security entitlement reform process that begins to wrestle with America’s long term entitlement obligations.

To some degree, Furman manifests the interests and perspective of perhaps the leading neoliberal force in politics today, Robert Rubin. Furman could make a good case that his views may differ here and there, but my sense is that he’s an essential spear-carrier of Rubinomics.

Given the rhetoric of Obama on redoing trade deals, of giving China a tough time on trade, and focusing on the real needs of working class Americans — the choice of Furman surprises me though I certainly don’t oppose it.

But calling a spade a spade, it’s clear that Furman is no Dean Baker or Robert Blecker or Jared Bernstein — all important economists who have been far more right as of late than the Rubin crowd in anticipating the stress points in globalization, the housing bubble, trade, and the like.

Good point! Would it be asking too much for the Obama campaign to bring someone on board its paid economic policy team that brings with them an unabashed left-liberal perspective?

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