Furmanology

Chris Hayes quoting Steve Clemons on Obama’s appointment of Jason Furman to head his economic team:

But calling a spade a spade, it’s clear that Furman is no Dean Baker or Robert Blecker or Jared Bernstein—all important economists who have been far more right as of late than the Rubin crowd in anticipating the stress points in globalization, the housing bubble, trade, and the like.

Good point! Would it be asking too much for the Obama campaign to bring someone on board its paid economic policy team that brings with them an unabashed left-liberal perspective?

Probably. What’s the function of economic policy advisors in a campaign? To signal (largely to highly informed elites) what kind of policies we might expect from the candidate. So, which people are more important for Obama to signal to: left-liberal Democratic Party stalwarts or moderates with money who might seriously entertain voting for McCain if his economic policy seems considerably more friendly. Seems pretty obvious. Furman is an assurance of centrist reasonableness while relative extremists like Baker and Berstein will either turn people off considering Obama (like me!) or signal to people already deep in the tank for Obama (like Chris, I’d guess).

For an up close and personal taste of Jason Furman’s thinking not only about economic policy, but the deeper philosophical questions behind it, check out his comments on Danny Shapiro’s Is the Welfare State Justified? at this Cato book forum I moderated last October.

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