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“I would describe my job this way: I’m an economic consultant with one client: the president,” said Alan Krueger, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger spoke to a Northwestern audience on Oct. 8.


'Slowly healing'

Alan Krueger, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, shares insights into the nation’s economic standing

By Daniel P. Smith

10/10/2012 - With the presidential election less than one month away and the nation’s still-turbulent economy on many voters’ minds, Alan Krueger, chair of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, repeated a line he’s shared often in recent months.

“The U.S. economy is slowly healing,” Krueger told a near-capacity crowd at Northwestern on Oct. 8. “The economy has done a tremendous amount of adjusting.”

Krueger’s forthright remarks came during the 2012 Distinguished Public Policy Lecture hosted by Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

In the 75-minute program moderated by IPR director David Figlio, Krueger addressed diverse issues such as the nation’s long-term economic health, the role of research in policymaking, student debt and the vanishing middle class.

Building on momentum
As head of the President’s Council, Krueger offers President Obama objective economic analysis and advice on the development and implementation of economic policy.

“I would describe my job this way: I’m an economic consultant with one client: the president,” Krueger said.

Krueger championed a balanced approach to economic policymaking that considers both short-term gains as well as decisions that can foster a sustainable fiscal path, adding that he works to provide President Obama a range of fiscal perspectives.

“I look for policies that have the most bang for the buck … [and that] are right given the state of the economy,” Krueger said.

When asked by an audience member about the need for a larger stimulus, Krueger dodged all-out support for such a measure, but said the nation’s leaders must take responsible steps to maintain the recovery.

“The longer this recovery goes, the more momentum it will gain,” he said.

Research and policymaking
Currently on leave from Princeton University, Krueger’s resume includes stints as chief economist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor. He said moving between academia and government over the last two decades has afforded him critical insights into vital economic issues, such as the labor force and sanctions.

“The experiences I’ve had have helped me think more about what’s right for the economy,” Krueger said.

Though Krueger has crafted a distinguished career as a researcher, he called research “but one input” in policymaking. He said economic policymaking also requires public communication skills, collaborative considerations and a supportive constituency.

Krueger also said improved education at the K-12 and post-secondary levels would propel the nation’s long-term economic success.

“It’s not in our country’s best interest if we’re squandering resources,” Krueger said.

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