WASHINGTON – Facing a public deeply dissatisfied with his handling of the economy, President Barack Obama on Monday tapped a prominent labor economist to join his cadre of advisers and help steer a fall jobs agenda that will be critical to the president’s re-election bid.
In nominating Alan Krueger as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Obama gains an economist with expertise in the labor market and unemployment, a key drag on the U.S. economy and Obama’s presidency. Krueger, a former Treasury Department official and Princeton University economist, has advocated for hiring-tax credits for businesses and increased government spending on infrastructure, two programs Obama aides are considering proposing this fall.
Gregory Mankiw, a former CEA chairman under President George W. Bush and longtime acquaintance of Krueger, said Obama’s new nominee has a reputation as an analytic, data-driven economist, not as a champion for many specific policy initiatives. While Mankiw said he believes Krueger is highly qualified for the post, he doesn’t expect him to push the administration in any new directions when it comes to tackling the nation’s economic and unemployment woes.
“This is more of a continuity appointment rather than a move-in-a-new-direction appointment,” said Mankiw, now an economics professor at Harvard University. “I don’t think the president wanted a change. He’s keeping the basic structure of the team in place.”
Obama said he would rely on the economist for unvarnished guidance, not partisan political advice.