Obama Names Krueger Chief Economic Adviser

Aug 29, 2011
Originally published on August 29, 2011 6:38 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel.

President Obama has chosen Princeton economist Alan Krueger to fill the top spot on his Council of Economic Advisors. The appointment comes as Mr. Obama prepares to unveil a new jobs package in hopes of reducing the nation's painfully high unemployment rate.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports that Krueger is a student of the job market. And he is expected to advocate more aggressive government action.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama says he'll be looking to Alan Krueger and the other members of his economic team for unvarnished advice on how to get the U.S. economy growing faster.


President BARACK OBAMA: Our challenge is to create a climate where more businesses can post job listings, where folks can find good work that relieves the financial burden they're feeling, where families can regain a sense of economic security in their lives.

HORSLEY: That sense of economic security has been shaken in recent months, as the pace of hiring has slowed sharply. New figures on August unemployment are expected at the end of this week.

Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, is among those who've been calling on the administration to do more to encourage job growth. Baker thinks Krueger will also push for stronger economic medicine. But he's not sure how much influence that advice will carry in the Oval Office.

Dr. DEAN BAKER: How far he'll be able to turn the tide there is another question. Because clearly the administration at least, given what's leaked out there, doesn't look to be planning any big measures.

HORSLEY: President Obama is expected to unveil a new package of jobs measures next week. But Baker says the ideas floated so far, such as increased financing for public works projects, don't go far enough. Still, Baker sees Krueger as a good choice.

Krueger's academic career has focused on labor issues, including the slow pace of job growth throughout the last decade, and how government can raise the minimum wage without costing jobs.

BAKER: He's a very good pick. And, you know, given the range of people that I think were plausible, probably, you know, at the very top, in my view.

HORSLEY: Krueger is no stranger to Washington, having served as chief economist in the Treasury and Labor Departments. Mr. Obama hopes that will pave the way for a speedy confirmation.


OBAMA: He's one of the nation's leading economists. For more than two decades, he's studied and developed economic policy both inside and outside of government.

HORSLEY: Economic advisors to past presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both praised Krueger's selection. But the Republican National Committee quickly attacked the nominee, noting that he once suggested a national sales tax and supports a cap and trade system to curtail greenhouse gases.

Krueger has also written about the economics of rock music, or Rockonomics, as he called it. His personal favorite is another keen observer of the labor market: Bruce Springsteen.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) 'Cause it's the working, the working, just the working life...

HORSLEY: If confirmed by the Senate, Krueger would replace Mr. Obama's longtime advisor Austan Goolsbee. He stepped down earlier this month.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.