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Seven things to know about Austan Goolsbee

thegoolsbee.JPG1) It's Austan Goolsbee. With an "A." No one knows why. But it's going to be misspelled a lot. This post is as much to remind me as to remind you.

2) Many people thought Goolsbee was going to chair the Council of Economic Advisers initially. Instead, the position went to Christina Romer, and Goolsbee was named one of the panel's three members. He was also the staff economist for Paul Volcker's recovery panel. So this is an obvious promotion, not an unexpected shake-up.

3) Obama has now had two major vacancies on his economic policy team, and he's replaced both with internal candidates. Jack Lew took over Peter Orszag's job, and Goolsbee is moving up to Romer's position. Whatever is going on politically, it's quite clear that Obama is happy with the economic advisers he's got, and the advice they've been giving him. There's no sign that Obama is interested in a major course correction, at least not on the economic policy side.

4) Goolsbee has a reputation as one of the liberal economists on the team, but that's more a byproduct of his populist rhetorical style than actual populism. He's a serious free-market guy, and his much-reported showdown with Larry Summers came because he wanted to let Chrysler fail, while others in the administration wanted the administration to intervene and save it.

5) His academic work was mostly -- though not exclusively -- on tax policy. Look for him to play a major role if the administration decides to pursue serious tax reform. He also wrote a bunch of columns for Slate.

6) The promotion is partly a recognition of Goolsbee's surprising communication skills. He's easily the most likable and able of the team on TV. If you look on YouTube, you'll find videos like "Austan Goolsbee: Master of the One Liner."

7) There are now no women with central roles in the White House's economic process, and no obvious openings.

Photo credit: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 10, 2010; 9:18 AM ET
Categories:  Obama administration  
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Next: Extending the Bush tax cuts for all Americans is unpopular


I believe you meant cachet in the next to last paragraph.

Posted by: ctnickel | September 10, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Was there a woman in a big role on the economic team other than Romer that I'm forgetting?

Posted by: MosBen | September 10, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

For a fuller understanding of Goolsbee's economic approach and rhetorical style, his performance in the University of Chicago's famous annual Latke-Hamantash debate should be investigated. (The debate has been going on since 1946, pitting famous university scholars from various disciplines--philosophy, history, economics, etc.--on one side or another of this critical issue.) He's pretty funny. Parts 1 and 2:

Posted by: JJenkins2 | September 10, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

mosben, are you thinking of Melody Barnes of the Domestic Policy Council?

Posted by: bdballard | September 10, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I just couldn't think of any ladies other than Romer that had left. This was in response to Ezra's comment that there were no longer any ladies high up on the economic team.

Posted by: MosBen | September 10, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"is that socialism? are you a muslim?"

Posted by: Chris_ | September 10, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"Dr. Goolsbee: I’ll Stop Impersonating an Economist If You Quit Underwriting Mortgage Loans"

By Tanta (R.I.P.)

Of course it’s not surprising that Goolsbee ignores the evidence of a house-price bubble, since there can apparently be no bubbles in perfect markets. Theories do that to you. But I don’t think theory can really explain the revolting disingenuousness at the end of his op-ed:

"The Center for Responsible Lending estimated that in 2005, a majority of home loans to African-Americans and 40 percent of home loans to Hispanics were subprime loans. The existence and spread of subprime lending helps explain the drastic growth of homeownership for these same groups."


...CRL is suggesting that a pattern of finding subprime loans given to minority borrowers with similar credit, income, and equity profiles to non-Latino whites who get prime loans may imply a certain “inefficiency” in the mortgage market somewhere. For Goolsbee to use this data to buttress an unregulated free-for-all by claiming that it helps out the traditionally disadvantaged is, well, dishonest.

Posted by: nklein1553 | September 10, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Be very afraid of this man. In March of '07, just as the mortgage frenzy was starting to become our cement shoes, Goolsbee said "...the mortgage market has become more perfect, not more irresponsible. People tend to make good decisions about their own economic prospects."

See for more information.

Posted by: nickthap | September 10, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Along with Dean Baker Doris Dungey, aka "Tanta," (R.I.P.) was one of the most prominent bloggers to correctly predict that abuses by lenders in the sub-prime industry would lead to a disastrous housing bubble. Tanta may be gone, but there are still several well known economists and financial sector professionals who foresaw the housing bubble available to serve as advisers should the Obama administration choose to seek their advice. Dean Baker is the most obvious example. William Black, Randall Wray, and Warren Mosler would also qualify, in my opinion. That the Obama administration does not do so and instead chooses to rely on the advice of those who either could not see the abuses leading up to the housing bubble as a problem (Goolsbee), or worse yet, those who were complicit in perpetrating those abuses (Summers/Geithner) should tell you all you need to know about the Obama administration.

Posted by: nklein1553 | September 10, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"Obama is happy with the economic advisers he's got, and the advice they've been giving him"

Oh, what joy fills my heart.

Posted by: B405 | September 10, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

He's great on TV. Fantastic, he'll be able to provide a more articulate explanation on why the farce that is free-market capitalism is worth keeping.

Let's get serious and revive regulation - and we should have started with Brown-Kaufmann.

Posted by: etlingjm | September 11, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

No women involved in the White House economic process, nor anyone with any real-world experience in business. All theorists, no practical experience.

Posted by: DaveyNC | September 12, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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