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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 01/ 7/2011

Learning Sperling

By Ezra Klein

Matt Yglesias is right that the media -- myself included -- has done a crummy job introducing people to the work and thought of Gene Sperling, as opposed to scrutinizing the few areas of his background that seemed likely to create controversy:

Like [Sperling] or hate him, I just wish the past week’s worth of commentary on him hadn’t relied so heavily on “six degrees of Robert Rubin” versus “here’s a thinly sourced anecdote from the 1990s.” Sperling’s views on economic policy are not a state secret. He published a good book in 2005, or if you want a briefer precis of his views, you can read his 2007 article for Democracy.

He’s also published a lot of shorter stuff for CAP. You can read him on why the tax code is unfair to low-income Americans and should be made more progressive. Or about his proposal for a universal 401(k) program featuring “[g]enerous $2-to-$1 government matching contributions for initial savings of low-income families and $1-to-$1 matches for middle-income families … financed in a fiscally responsible manner” by avoiding estate tax repeal. Or here he is in the Washington Monthly talking about the need to go beyond unemployment Insurance and offer a comprehensive wage insurance program. Here’s some stuff he did for the Huffington Post.

I think that's dead-on, and I've been part of the problem, not the solution. So if you're interested in learning more about Sperling, follow some of Matt's links. Or go read the stuff he wrote for the Council on Foreign Relations encouraging global development by making basic education available to kids in poorer countries. Matt Miller has also released a previously unpublished, 5,300-word draft of a profile he wrote of Sperling for the New Republic in 1999. Sperling so impressed Miller -- who's a very sharp and critical guy -- that TNR killed the piece for being too positive. But you can read it here.

By Ezra Klein  | January 7, 2011; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Obama administration  
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Comments

--*He’s also published a lot of shorter stuff for CAP. You can read him on why the tax code is unfair to low-income Americans and should be made more progressive.*--

If you follow the link in that section above (Klein puts the link on different words than Yglesias did. Incompetence, or obfuscation?) to the source article you'll read something by Sperling that is utterly fact free, other than describing what Warren Buffet *thinks*.

Posted by: msoja | January 7, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Yglesias is thinking about something other than barbershops and parking?

Posted by: pj_camp | January 7, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"I think that's dead-on, and I've been part of the problem, not the solution."

It's good to hear your admission. Any thoughts on what might have led you astray?

Posted by: pneogy | January 7, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I just read about half of Sperling's 2007 article in Democracy. I not only liked it, but discovered is thoughts on the economy, trade, and fiscal policy correspond very closely to my own. I look forward to reading more recent articles from him.

I'm glad now that Obama hired him. I think he and Goolsbee will make an excellent team.

Posted by: valkayec | January 7, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

some highlights from sperling's wikipedia page

As director of the NEC. Sperling was a principal negotiator with then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers of the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Sperling was the chief economic advisor for Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign.[5][6]

According to Bloomberg News, Sperling earned $887,727 from Goldman Sachs in 2008 and $158,000 for speeches mostly to financial companies. [7]

Sperling is the author of The Pro-Growth Progressive, a book arguing that liberals should seek to harness market forces in pursuing progressive goals,

co-author of What Works In Girls' Education?.

He was also a consultant for the television series The West Wing.

another soldier in the rubin-sumers-geitner wall street channel

Posted by: jamesoneill | January 7, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't he the inspiration for Toby Ziegler on "The West Wing"? Ah, no, Google tells me that he was a consultant for the show.

Posted by: Klug | January 7, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I guess Sperling's association with CAP has nothing to do with Yglesias' support?

He's a classic free-trade neoliberal. I don't hate all his ideas, but at this point we need to back off free trade agreements and look at what's worked and what hasn't. We don't need to be pushing globalization and then trying to get Congress to pass measures to partially ameliorate the effects.

Posted by: bmull | January 7, 2011 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Learning Sperling?

Rather than judging by his words how about we judge by his deeds?

From Huffpo:

"By appointing Sperling, the president would fuel perceptions that his administration is overly close to Wall Street, installing a policymaker who has not only overseen monumental deregulation of the financial sector, but has also collected hefty paychecks from its leading firms.
The next NEC director will help determine the administration's economic policy over the next two years. Summers, who last week left his White House post for a Harvard professorship, met with the president almost daily to discuss economic decisions. Long sympathetic to Wall Street interests, Summers pushed for deregulation of financial instruments under President Clinton, a policy that experts -- and Clinton himself -- now say was misguided, contributing to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Sperling, if appointed, would be expected to take a stance similar to that of Summers and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, said those familiar with his history. (Rubin became chairman of Citigroup after leaving the Clinton administration and later resigned from that post in disgrace.) Sperling worked under Rubin in the early Clinton years, when Rubin was NEC director. In Clinton's second term, during Sperling's own tenure as NEC director, Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, prompting a rule-easing that allowed Citigroup to become the world's largest financial services company."

Heck of a job Genie.

Posted by: manapp99 | January 8, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone else noticed the total lack of diversity around the White House when it comes to Veterans. With the departure of National Security Advisor General James Jones several months ago, NO ONE in the West Wing has ever donned a uniform in defense of this nation which makes Obama's truly a "Vet-less Administration."

Even the people who were of Prime Draft age during Vietnam like VP Joe "5-Deferment" Biden (like Dick Cheney to be fair), current acting Chief of Staff Pete Rouse and his replacement William Daley it appears all did everything short of maiming themselves (probably didn’t have the guts) to dodge the VN Draft. By comparison, the present White House crowd makes “George W" look like a war hero! (For the record, Bush flying antique Air Guard Convair F-102s was probably in more danger than I was during an extended CIB-earning tour in Vietnam!). Active military service was a certainty for any male born between 1940-49 unless morally, mentally or medically unfit, or they took some overt action to "dodge" the draft so when these guys evaded, someone else, probably less educated or advantaged and definitely less eligible, served in his place.

Mr. President, isn’t it about time for a little diversity in your inner circle. Hire a Vet!

Posted by: A-COL | January 8, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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