In the past week, President Barack Obama has talked at length about the U.S. economy and his administration's efforts to get the stalled economic recovery restarted. To lead that effort, the president has named Austan Goolsbee to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Obama made the announcement in remarks during a rare White House press conference Friday. "He's not just a brilliant economist, he's someone who has a deep appreciation of how the economy affects everyday people," Obama said.
Goolsbee succeeds Christina Romer who resigned from the post last week to return to private life in California. Goolsbee, who already serves on the council, is a long-time adviser to the president. The former University of Chicago economics professor provided guidance to Obama in his bids for the Senate in 2004 and president in 2008.
Goolsbee's elevation to chairman doesn't require congressional approval since he has already undergone Senate scrutiny as a member of the council. But his appointment may lead to criticism by those in the Republican party who have argued that Obama should fire those on his economics team for failing to get the economy moving again more quickly.
The Battle Over Taxes and Spending
Despite his affiliation with the University of Chicago, known for its right-leaning, free-market philosophy, Goolsbee isn't a conservative. He has long stood against the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and promoted measures such as expanded health care and increased assistance to help with college tuition.
The Obama press conference follows a week of events that took the president to Milwaukee on Monday for a speech at a Labor Day rally. There, Obama laid out a six-year plan that would provide an additional $50 billion to infrastructure spending for roads, bridges, airports and railways.
He also wants to make permanent a $100 billion research-and-development tax credit and create a $200 billion program to convince U.S. companies to buy more equipment and make other capital improvements in the next two years.
On Wednesday, the president spoke in Cleveland, providing greater detail about the plan and taking on Republicans -- specifically House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. Obama criticized Boehner and other members of his party for failing to come up with any new ideas to help fix the economy.
Boehner has proposed leaving the Bush-era tax cuts in place and cutting government spending to fiscal 2008 levels (with the exception of national security spending). The president in his speech Wednesday reiterated his previously announced proposal to freeze "all discretionary spending unrelated to national security for the next three years." Obama also opposes extending the Bush tax cuts, which are targeted at those who earn $250,000 a year or more.
Whether either plan will be considered by Congress ahead of November's midterm elections remains doubtful, leaving many unemployed and otherwise frustrated Americans in the lurch. Ironically, it may take a deeper worsening of the economy to get Congress to act.
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