Why Obama picked Alan Krueger as next top White House economist

In a Rose Garden briefing, President Obama named Princeton University economist Alan Krueger as the next head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

By , Staff writer

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    President Obama announces that labor economist Alan Krueger (l.) will replace Austan Goolsbee (not shown) as the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Aug. 29.
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President Obama has chosen Princeton University economist Alan Krueger as the next head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Mr. Obama announced the appointment Monday in a Rose Garden appearance.

“Our great ongoing challenge as a nation remains how to get this economy growing faster ... Alan brings a wealth of experience to the job,” said the president.

Of course, there are many Democratic economists with credentials that would enable them to serve as the top White House economist. So why pick Dr. Krueger in particular?

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For one thing, he’s well acquainted with many current administration officials. Krueger served as a Treasury Department economist until last fall, when he returned to Princeton.

But the bigger reason may be that Krueger is one of the nation’s top labor economists. He served as the Labor Department’s chief economist during the Clinton administration.

His academic work includes an investigation into whether raising the minimum wage depresses job growth (his conclusion: it doesn’t) and an analysis of why job growth wasn’t stronger in the early years of this century.

Jobs, and why the US does not have more of them, will be a central theme of the coming presidential campaign. The nation’s unemployment rate remains over 9 percent, and given the current rate of weak economic growth, it will be years until it drops to a level considered full employment by economists.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, even with a healthy growth rate of 3.6 percent over the next several years, the US won’t reach full employment until 2017.

Next week the White House will unveil a package of initiatives intended to boost US job growth. The administration will need all hands on deck, including nominee Krueger, to promote the package.

“My hope and expectation is that we can put country before party to do something for the American people,” said Obama Monday.

Previous CEA head Austan Goolsbee left the White House earlier this month to return to teaching at the University of Chicago. CEA appointees are often academic economists who must return to their teaching positions after relatively brief stints or risk losing tenure.

Mr. Goolsbee was one of the main faces of administration economic policies – a tireless promoter whose knack for explanatory phrases got him on television shows such as Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.”

Krueger – if confirmed by the Senate – likely will perform a similar duty, as he is not a dry-as-dust speaker. And he’s written on a wide range of economic topics in the past, from the economic cost of the time people wait in doctor’s offices, to which performer economists might rate as more popular: Madonna or Bruce Springsteen.

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