Yesterday President Obama named Alan B. Krueger to head his council of economic advisors, replacing Austan Goolsbee, who replaced Christina Romer. How do I know this? You’d have to have been watching the news last night very carefully, or you’d have missed it. You won’t find it in the papers or on their web sites. I searched both Reuters and USAToday for more information but came up empty. By the time I went to the White House web site, I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined it. But, no, there it was. (Link provided above.)
It’s a sad statement on the state of Obama’s presidency, once so full of hope for turning around our economy. Now, when he names a new economic advisor, no one even cares. We know what we’re going to get. Instead of real solutions to our economic problems, we’ll instead get proposals for a patchwork of government spending programs to paper over the economy and create a few token jobs, proposals that will rightfully die in Congress for lack of funding at a time when debt is no longer politicallly palatable. Of course, then the administration can blame Congress for its lack of progress.
Still, I was curious to know more about this guy. What I found didn’t excite me. Another Harvard economist, one whose writings (see http://nber.org/s/search?q=alan+krueger&btnG=Search&entqr=0&output=xml_no_dtd&client=default_frontend&ud=1&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&proxystylesheet=test3_fe&site=default_collection&whichsearch=db&restrict_papers=yes&fullresults=1) seem to cover the gamut of economic minutia.
The August employment report comes out on Friday. I expect that the report will be grim, setting the stage for the President’s new jobs strategy, to be announced early next week, to be greeted with skepticism, derision and scorn.
In terms of the economy, this president has been a huge disappointment. Yes, he inherited a terrible mess. But there’s been ample time to make major progress toward turning things around. It would have taken real leadership to take us onto a new path and off of the road to nowhere that the U.S. economy has been following for decades. Sadly, all we got was some tinkering on the margins – another care-taker president. Obama’s done a lot of good things, including winding down the Iraq war, killing Bin Laden, salvaging the American automobile business. But that’s about it. His economic policies have failed. Our trade deficit has exploded, thanks to his failure to follow through on campaign promises to address trade policy shortcomings. His immigration policy is a disaster.
I won’t be posting much more about the Obama presidency as it heads into its final year. (Yeah, I know, “hallelujah!”) It’s been an opportunity lost. It’s time to focus on the future, although, frankly, I don’t see much cause for cheer there either. As I’ve said before, there are no political solutions to our problems. It’s the field of economics that must emerge from 19th century thinking if mankind is to have any hope of a brighter future. When economic advisors come equipped with an understanding of how population growth factors into the economy, then there will be cause for hope.