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Summers for CEA?

In today's Wonkbook, I linked to Frank Ahrens's fun list of left-field candidates to replace Christina Romer as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Sadly, most of them are essentially ineligible: CEA always usually goes to academic economists, and the CEO of Pepsi doesn't have a PhD. I'd expect the White House to add a high-ranking member of the business community to its economic team fairly soon, but it's not likely to be at CEA.

But here's what I'd like to see happen: Larry Summers should move to CEA. The thing CEA does -- provide economic advice to the president -- is the thing Summers is both best at, and is actually doing. Maybe he can somehow keep an office in the West Wing, and get some sort of added title. Meanwhile, his current position -- chair of the National Economic Council, which coordinates the whole of the White House's economic process -- should be handed over to someone more oriented towards process, and more talented at running it.

Just to be clear, this won't happen. CEA isn't in the West Wing, and so it has less day-to-day power and access. Summers would see it as a demotion, and he'd probably be right. But putting Summers in charge of economic advice would make more sense than putting him in charge of economic process.

Update: Bruce Bartlett writes in:

It doesn’t always go to academic economists or even economists. Republicans often appoint Wall Street economists like Alan Greenspan, and Truman’s CEA chairman, Leon Keyserling, was a lawyer with no economic background at all.

For what it’s worth, I advised a senior WH contact that Obama should appoint Mark Zandi. I think he would be perfect. If I were a lefty, I would be pushing for Jared Bernstein. I find it odd that no one has mentioned his name. Summers has less than zero interest in the job.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 16, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
Categories:  Obama administration  
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Since early Bush 2, CEA is not even in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, it's in a suite of offices in a nearby highrise.

Posted by: bdballard | August 16, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Assuming the economy remains in the doldrums or worse after November and the Republicans do well, Obama will have to hit the reset button. The staff/Cabinet status quo won't play politically anymore. I fully expect Summers and Geithner to be gone. There's even some justice to that. I think Obama's team let him down badly in warning him just how shaky the economy might turn out to be. Better to have the blame attach to them (since they can leave) than Obama.

Posted by: robbins2 | August 16, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

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