The Obama administration’s selection of Alan Krueger to lead the Council of Economic Advisers was greeted with applause from progressive economists, including Paul Krugman and Jared Bernstein. “Alan is a fine choice as chief economic adviser,” wrote Krugman, who has often clashed with the administration over economic policy. “It’s an inspired choice,” added Bernstein.
Krueger served as an adviser in the Treasury Department from 2009–10, where he designed the successful cash-for-clunkers program, and, as a Princeton University professor, is regarded as one of the country’s top labor economists. His nomination comes at a time when the Obama administration is belatedly realizing it needs to do much more to try to boost the lagging economy. The Wall Street Journal reports that, if confirmed, Krueger “is likely to provide a voice inside the administration for more-aggressive government action to bring down unemployment and, particularly, to address long-term joblessness.”
Next week Obama will lay out his ideas to create jobs, which will likely include the extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, a tax cut for companies that hire new workers, an infrastructure bank to spur new construction jobs and job training for the long-term unemployed, reports Bloomberg News and the Washington Post. Whether these steps are enough to jumpstart an economic recovery, and whether anything the administration proposes can make it through Congress, remains to be seen.
It’s now clear that the administration’s obsession with cutting the deficit did nothing to boost the economy or help the president politically. The economy recovery has ground to a halt and Obama’s approval ratings are at an all-time low. “The White House strategy failed, and it failed pretty spectacularly,” writes Mike Tomasky in the Daily Beast.
Thanks to the Congressional “super-committee,” Washington will still be gripped by deficit hysteria through Christmas, at least. But at least the issue of jobs is returning to the forefront of the conversation, and there seems to be an increasing realization by some in the Democratic Party, including House Democratic committee members, that growing the economy and creating jobs is also the best way to cut the deficit.
Finally, there’s the question of whether Krueger’s nomination will be approved by the Senate. He was unanimously confirmed for the Treasury job in May 2009 and Politico’s “Morning Money” reported today that Senate Republicans will not block his nomination on the second go-round. We’ll see—Senate Republicans have already killed many other well-qualified Obama nominees, including Peter Diamond for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and recently prevented the administration from making any recess appointments over the summer break. Things have gotten so bad that we don’t even have a permanent commerce secretary. If he gets the job, it’s probably an understatement to say that Krueger will have his work cut out for him.
—Ari Berman is the author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics. Follow him on Twitter at @AriBerman.