Obama's Egghead Economic Saboteurs

June 8, 2011 - 5:35 AM

Official motto of the White House economic team: Those who can, do. Those who can't, fantasize in the classroom, fail in Washington and then return to the Ivy Tower to train the next generation of egghead economic saboteurs. Life is good for left-wing academics. Everyone else pays dearly.

Take Austan Goolsbee, please. President Obama's "fresh-faced" University of Chicago econ professor arrived in Washington in December 2008 to fill two slots: chief economist/staff director of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board and member of the Council of Economic Advisers. In September 2010, he replaced CEA head and fellow academic Christina Romer, who retreated to the University of California at Berkeley last August when unemployment hit 9.5 percent. (She infamously projected that the Obama stimulus would hold the jobless rate below 8 percent.)

Goolsbee's primary task: translating all of the administration's big-government theories for us dummies. As Goolsbee put it to his university's student newspaper: "We've certainly seen in previous crises that it's quite important to explain things to non-experts. The American people can confront any challenge if they're comfortable with the approach."

And what exactly was the nature of Goolsbee's vaunted expertise? Making money as a business rescue-and-recovery expert without ever having had to meet a payroll.

Goolsbee, the 15th wealthiest member of the Obama administration, has raked in assets valued at between $1,146,000 and $2,715,000. He also pulled in a University of Chicago salary of $465,000 and additional wages and honoraria worth $93,000, according to Washingtonian magazine.

As I've noted before, the government research fellow and Obama campaign adviser was a champion of extending credit to the un-creditworthy. In a 2007 op-ed for The New York Times, he derided those who called subprime mortgages "irresponsible." He preferred to describe them as "innovations in the mortgage market" to expand the pool of homebuyers.

Goolsbee's most recent "innovation": the "White House White Board," a weekly video lecture teaching everyone else how to hitch what remains of America's free-market system to the wagon of the state and how much (or rather, how little) we should make doing it. He illustrated his grand interventionist strategy to pick and choose "Startup America" winners by drawing a trough of broken light bulbs (symbolizing entrepreneurial ideas) piling up in a "Valley of Death" because they lacked government support.

A comical choice of imagery, given the Democrats' enviro-nutty ban on incandescent bulbs. But I digress.

When Goolsbee joined Team Obama, the unemployment rate was at around 6 percent. When he announced his resignation on Monday, the jobless rate stood at 9.1 percent. Romer and Jared Bernstein (former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden) had predicted unemployment would drop every single month after August 2009 due to the Obama stimulus. Bernstein bailed on the administration in April 2011 for the sanctuary of a liberal think-tank. He'll also now ply his failed wares as a financial pundit.

These hapless command-and-control ideologues were preceded by Peter Orszag, who hung his "Mission Accomplished" banner over the White House budget office in June 2010 after fewer than two years on the job, and by former National Economic Council head and hedge fund manager Larry Summers, who was caught sleeping on the job -- literally -- more than once during his brief tenure. Summers packed his bags in September. He was followed by Princeton economics professor and former top Obama Treasury Department official Alan Krueger in October 2010.

White House aides have lamented that the economic team is "exhausted." Apparently, Obama is tired of hearing from them, too. The Hill newspaper reports that he has stopped receiving daily economic briefings that were once treated with the same emergency status as national security briefings.

So, the central planners continue to be paid to fail -- while their boss looks the other way at the destruction, whistling into what he calls America's temporary "head winds."

Nice non-work if you can get it.