Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's like an episode of The West Wing

(HT: Calculated Risk). President Obama recently invited several non-administration economists to the White House for a long dinner. Michael Hirsh publishes the guest list, first time I've seen the whole list. It's like watching a week's worth of NewsHour economics segments during the peak of the crisis, except all in one 2 hour sitting. Observe (particularly the bolded part):

It’s not that Barack Obama isn’t aware of what’s at stake. That’s very likely why on April 27, the president gathered in some of his chief outside economic critics —including two of the most vociferous, Nobelists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman—for a secretive dinner in the old family dining room of the White House. Also in attendance: Paul Volcker, who has one foot in and one foot out of the administration as the head of Obama’s largely cosmetic economic recovery board; Princeton economist and former Fed vice chairman Alan Blinder; Columbia’s Jeff Sachs; and Harvard’s Ken Rogoff. Representing the home team, as it were: Obama’s chief economic adviser Larry Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Why did Obama hold the meeting? “I think he wanted to hear the [opposing] arguments right in front of him,” says Blinder. “All I can say is if the president of the United States devotes that much personal time, and it was about two-hour dinner, he must want to hear what people outside the administration are saying and hear what his own people say in rebuttal to that. Why would you do that if you aren’t at least turning over your mind what to do next?”

Can I just say that I'm glad someone serious like this is president? It's like Jed Bartlett on the West Wing (he was a Nobel prize winning economist). Not only does he assemble a great team, he brings in other well-known figures and has them hash it out while he watches.

Ken Rogoff, of course, is the one I'd be excited about meeting; and Jeffery Sachs. Blinder is the only one who has authored a book I've yet to read (though it's on my shelf).

Stiglitz and Krugman are not doing any real economic research these days, they're just sort of living off their Nobels and writing columns & blogs.Sachs has been mostly interested in development issues for years. Still... these are the people that everyone who reads newspapers are reading. The people you'd be curious to know if the president and his staff are reading as well.

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