President Obama on Monday nominated Jason Furman, a longtime Democratic economic policy thinker who has served him as a top adviser since the 2008 presidential campaign, to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
The job would represent a culmination of Furman’s career working for Obama and, before him, President Bill Clinton. As a Harvard graduate student, Furman began working in the Clinton White House as a low-level economist on the CEA, which provides the president with data-driven analysis of economic policy issues.
Furman then became a more senior economic adviser on the National Economic Council, which coordinates economic policy for the president. He has worked there since the beginning of the Obama administration and would move to the CEA to replace Alan Krueger, who is returning to Princeton as a professor.
“He’s worked tirelessly on just about every major economic challenge of the past 41 / 2 years,” Obama said at the White House, “from averting a second depression to fighting for tax cuts that helped millions of working families make ends meet, to creating new incentives for businesses to hire, to reducing our deficits in a balanced way that benefits the middle class.”
The choice of Furman is somewhat surprising because though he has a doctorate in economics, he does not hold an academic position at a university. Most CEA chairmen have had far more academic backgrounds and have not been as immersed in politics as Furman has.
Still, conservative economists praised Furman as a source of independent counsel for the president. The CEA often has pressed back against the arguments of more politically minded White House strategists who devise policies that sound popular but may lack a backing in economic research. For example, Obama’s CEA has resisted proposals to bail out parts of the auto industry and invest taxpayer money in manufacturing.
“The CEA’s essential function is to provide straightforward and unvarnished economic analysis to the president and others in the administration,” a group of conservative economists from the American Enterprise Institute wrote Monday. “Jason Furman’s history of writing and research indicate that he would do just this — he would bring to the Council of Economic Advisers the willingness to say ‘that’s a bad idea’ or to spell out inconvenient economic realities.”
In particular, the economists wrote that they appreciated Furman’s support of a broad package to reduce the deficit, his embrace of free trade and his defense of Wal-Mart’s value in providing low-cost goods for low-income Americans.
Some of those positions have irked liberals and organized labor, but at least one union group hailed Furman’s nomination Monday.
“Throughout his career, Mr. Furman has been a thoughtful voice in promoting economic policies that put the middle class first and seek to create good jobs,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.
No significant sign of opposition emerged in the Senate with the announcement of the nomination, which had been widely expected.