|"Official" unemployment still at nearly 9%|
President Obama’s former top economic advisor sharply criticized the federal government for failing to take more aggressive action against unemployment.
“I frankly don’t understand why policy makers aren’t more worried about the suffering of real families,” former Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer, who left the Administration last fall, said during a discussion at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tuesday. “I think there are tools we have that we can use, and I think it’s shameful that we’re not using them.”
Romer had been a voice inside the Obama Administration pressing for a larger ecnomic stimulus and more aggressive government action from the early days of the Administration, and she’s continued to make that case from the outside in a New York Times column.
But the sharpness of her criticism reflected deep concern among many Democratic economists about a political consensus that the federal government has to rein in expensive attempts to restart the economy even as rising oil prices again put a damper on growth.
“We need to realize that there is still a lot of devastation out there,” Romer said, calling the 8.9% unemployment rate "an absolute crisis."
“If I have a complaint about policy these days, it’s that we’re not doing enough," she said. "That goes all the way up to the Federal Reserve, [which] could be taking more aggressive action. It goes to the Congress and the Administration – there are fiscal policy actions they could be taking.”
“And don’t tell me you can’t [take those actions] because of the deficit because I think there are fiscally responsible ways,” she said.
Romer suggested that extending the payroll tax break to the empoyer side of the payroll tax could spur the economy; she suggested that Congress simultaneously pass a comprehensive, long-term plan for reducing the deficit.