Christina Romer, chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, to resign

By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 6, 2010

Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has resigned her post to return to her old job as an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, the White House said Thursday. Her resignation is effective Sept. 3.

President Obama said in a statement that Romer's decision was guided by "family commitments." Romer has long signaled that her time in Washington would be temporary; her husband, economist David Romer, has been on leave from his own post at Berkeley and their teenage son is due to start high school this fall.

Romer is also considered a serious candidate to replace Janet Yellen as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, one of the most important jobs in the Fed system. Yellen was recently named vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Romer, 51, is one of the nation's leading scholars of macroeconomic history and an expert on the Great Depression. She was tapped by Obama to serve as chief economist for the White House in November 2008 as the newly elected president was devising a response to a global economic panic.

Romer was instrumental in crafting the $862 billion economic stimulus package that Obama signed shortly after being sworn into office. She co-wrote a paper that predicted the stimulus would prevent unemployment rates from rising above 8 percent, a stance that has come under attack by Republicans who call the package a failure. Though most economists say the stimulus helped prevent a more severe economic crisis, the jobless rate has hovered near 10 percent and Romer's most recent forecast predicts that it will not drop below 8 percent until the end of 2012.

(Jobless rate stays at 9.5 percent after slow July hiring)

Respected by her administration colleagues and by Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Romer was nonetheless frustrated by life in Washington, according to administration sources. After winning swift approval of the stimulus, the administration struggled to push other initiatives through a balky Congress as concern heightened about mounting deficits.

This year, Romer emerged as a strong advocate for additional federal spending to stimulate a sluggish recovery. But her top priority, state aid to preserve teaching and other public-sector jobs, languished for months on Capitol Hill. Slashed by more than half, it won Senate approval Thursday and is headed for final passage next week in the House.

Obama and his chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, praised Romer on Thursday, noting that she will continue to serve the administration as a member of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.

"Christy Romer has provided extraordinary service to me and our country during a time of economic crisis and recovery," Obama said in a statement. "The challenges we faced demanded more of Christy than any of her predecessors, and I greatly valued and appreciated her skill, commitment and wise counsel."

Added Summers: "Christy has been an extraordinary friend and colleague at the White House. From jobs and recovery to health care and financial reform, she has been central to everything the administration has done in the economic area."

It was not immediately clear who would replace Romer. White House observers called Austan Goolsbee, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, an obvious choice, but that would leave Obama without a woman on his senior economic team.

Romer said in a statement that she looks forward to returning to teaching but called serving Obama "the honor of a lifetime."

"The opportunity to help shape economic policy these past 20 months, and to work with the other members of the economic team and my colleagues on the CEA, is one I will always cherish," she said.

Staff writer Neil Irwin contributed to this report.

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