The PJ Tatler

Meet the New Boss...

Here’s Jim Pethokoukis on President Obama’s likely new chief economist, Jason Furman:

He’s a Clinton Democrat. He says good things about free trade and Wal-Mart, which tends to annoy labor groups. When Furman ran the Hamilton Project at Brookings, he divided Democrats into two groups, “pre-tax” and “after-tax.” As I wrote back in 2008:

Pre-tax Dems want to alter the global trading system — maybe through tariffs or pushing China to let the yuan rise or penalizing companies that shift production overseas–to protect the income of workers from foreign competition. … After-tax Democrats think the focus should be on using trade to keep the economy growing and using social policy–better retraining programs, universal 401(k)’s, and wage insurance–to help workers hurt by trade, as well as creating an atmosphere where Americans don’t get so rattled by our fast-changing dynamic economy that they become risk averse.

Furman is more the after-tax Democrat. And unlike his boss, the president, he’s not so quick to write off the past three decades as terrible for the average American.

During Obama’s transition into power four-plus years ago, I was a little shocked by how many Clintonian moderates he was bringing along with him. There was a two- or three-week period just after the election, when I began to wonder if maybe Obama really might govern as a centrist. Then I watched in slightly less shock as the old Clinton hands were either dismissed, ignored, or sidelined by a far-left administration.

So get too excited by the prospect of substantive policy changes with Furman on board. More likely he’ll just be a little Clintonian frosting on a Marxian cake.