March 02, 2009
Free Austan Goolsbee!
Bloomberg reports that Council of Economic Advisers appointees Ceci Rouse and Austan Goolsbee have been caught up in a Senate crossfire and have yet to be confirmed: March 2 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate’s delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Good News, Or No?
Over on The Treatment, Jonathan Cohn offers important background on the White House's new health care advisor.
When President Obama introduced Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services a few moments ago, he also introduced Nancy-Ann Min DeParle as his new White House health care advisor. You're going to hear a lot of talk about how important Sebelius is to Obama's plans for comprehensive health care reform--and, undoubtedly, she'll play an important role, particularly if and when it comes time to implement a reform scheme. But when it comes to crafting a reform plan and then enacting it, DeParle's role is likely to be even more important.
White House budget director Peter Orszag had an interesting blog item over the weekend responding to critics who noted that the GDP numbers underlying Obama's budget were far more optimistic than the GDP numbers the Congressional Budget Office recently used. The source of the discrepency, explains Orszag, is that the CBO numbers in question didn't account for the effects of the stimulus package--the whole point of which, after all, is to "stimulate" GDP growth.
Gates And Ricks On Obama's Iraq Plan
Perhaps he's just staying on message, but I was struck by Robert Gates' formulation yesterday--"fairly remote"--when he was asked whether Obama might slow our Iraq drawdown if violence spikes as we leave. Of course, as Tom Ricks notes grimly, we're going to be leaving a huge troop force behind for several more months--and a non-trivial one even past August 2010: Let me say this even more plainly: Our participation in this war ends not when one president hangs a "Mission Accomplished" banner or when another president declares that combat has ended, but when American troops stop being killed the
Bob Samuelson's Elitist Economics
According to Robert Samuelson in this morning's Washington Post, the heart of the housing crisis isn't foreclosures, but the lack of demand, driven by the self-fulfilling expectation that prices have further to fall. But "the Obama administration," he writes, "essentially ignores this problem, though it can be addressed." Except that Obama is addressing it, with an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers--a fact that Samuelson concedes later in the piece, but then dismisses.
March 01, 2009
So why did it take so long for Obama to decide on Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary? Several factors were at play, including political considerations about taking her out of the running for the Kansas Senate seat up for election in 2010. But it's even more clear today that, as several media outlets have been reporting, the administration was weighing the pros and cons of a fight over abortion rights--and then preparing to fight it. Admittedly, Obama was never going to appoint an HHS Secretary opposed to abortion rights.
Budget Director Peter Orszag's appearance on ABC's "This Week" was full of revealing statements about the administration's plans and priorities. But this exchange, in particular, caught my eye: GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Some key Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying, if you want to do all of these big projects this year, you're going to have to follow what is called the reconciliation process, put health care, put energy inside the reconciliation process so that the effect of it is you only need 51 votes, not 60.
The Freeman Blunder
I wrote an op-ed in Saturday's Washington Post making the case against Chas Freeman, who is the new director of the National Intelligence Council. Update: Matthew Yglesias, in a measured response, points out that having an extreme realist in the administration won't be a disaster because Obama listens to lots of dissenting voices. I agree that this is reassuring and likely to mitigate the damage. On the other hand, Freeman is not just one foreign policy advisor -- his position is a bottleneck that filters the intelligence Obama will see.
February 28, 2009
In Defense Of Obamanomics
Christina Romer, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, gave a pretty good defense yesterday of the administration’s stimulus plan. Romer, speaking at the University of Chicago, responded to some conservative criticisms of the plan. One of these concerns how to calculate the “multiplier”--the degree to which a dollar in spending or tax increases will lead to more than a dollar in output and effective demand. The administration’s estimate that its plan would create about 3.5 million jobs was based on using a multiplier of 1.6 for spending and 1.0 for tax cuts.