Official motto of the White House economic team: Those who can, do. Those who can't, fantasize in the classroom, fail in Washington and then return to the Ivy Tower to train the next generation of egghead economic saboteurs. Life is good for left-wing academics. Everyone else pays dearly.
Take Austan Goolsbee, please. President Obama's "fresh-faced" University of Chicago econ professor arrived in Washington in December 2008 to fill two slots: chief economist/staff director of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board and member of the Council of Economic Advisers. In September 2010, he replaced CEA head and fellow academic Christina Romer, who retreated to the University of California at Berkeley last August when unemployment hit 9.5 percent. (She infamously projected that the Obama stimulus would hold the jobless rate below 8 percent.)
Goolsbee's primary task: translating all of the administration's big-government theories for us dummies. As Goolsbee put it to his university's student newspaper: "We've certainly seen in previous crises that it's quite important to explain things to non-experts. The American people can confront any challenge if they're comfortable with the approach."
And what exactly was the nature of Goolsbee's vaunted expertise? Making money as a business rescue-and-recovery expert without ever having had to meet a payroll.
Goolsbee, the 15th wealthiest member of the Obama administration, has raked in assets valued at between $1,146,000 and $2,715,000. He also pulled in a University of Chicago salary of $465,000 and additional wages and honoraria worth $93,000, according to Washingtonian magazine. As I've noted before, the government research fellow and Obama campaign adviser was a champion of extending credit to the un-creditworthy. In a 2007 op-ed for The New York Times, he derided those who called subprime mortgages "irresponsible." He preferred to describe them as "innovations in the mortgage market" to expand the pool of homebuyers.
Goolsbee's most recent "innovation": the "White House White Board," a weekly video lecture teaching everyone else how to hitch what remains of America's free-market system to the wagon of the state and how much (or rather, how little) we should make doing it. He illustrated his grand interventionist strategy to pick and choose "Startup America" winners by drawing a trough of broken light bulbs (symbolizing entrepreneurial ideas) piling up in a "Valley of Death" because they lacked government support.