Goolsbee: Americans have a role in recovery

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer

WASHINGTON ( -- Americans can help the recovery along by saving more than in the past, but also by spending responsibly in proportion to income, one of President Obama's top economic advisers said Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging interview based on questions from readers, Council of Economic Advisers chairman Austan Goolsbee said the nation can't simply spend its way out of this economic downturn, adding "we need a different style of recovery."

He said a key part of that recovery comes from business investment in factories and equipment, getting credit to small businesses. But another key part of the recovery should come from families saving more and spending in a proportional way to their income.

"It would be presumptuous and wrong to encourage people to spend beyond their means," Goolsbee said in the discussion with Managing Editor Lex Haris. "But the rebuilding of higher saving coupled with consumption growth that's proportional to income growth is a model of a sustainable business."

Goolsbee also said he doesn't expect the administration to embrace another round of consumer-growth focused stimulus packages like the cash-for-clunkers vouchers program or the tax credit for first time home buyers. He said those programs were deployed at a time to "stop the freefall" in the private-sector economy, which has since stabilized.

"It's a tough slug, but we're not in the freefall, as we were in when the president first came to office and during those first five or six months," Goolsbee said, pointing out such policies come with costs and may not be the best remedy for the problems currently plaguing the economy.

When asked about what the administration is doing to attack unemployment, Goolsbee highlighted past policies such as stimulus, tax cuts and the recent new law that aims to help small businesses to get access to credit.

But Goolsbee added that the administration's current focus is on incentives for private industry to create new jobs, such as creating or extending tax breaks for companies that invest in equipment and new plants. He also wants to "correct aspects in the tax code" that give U.S. companies incentives to move jobs overseas.

He disagreed that the president focused so much on health care reform in late 2009 instead of on policies that would have spurred more job growth.

"The president has been absolutely non-stop focused on creating jobs," Goolsbee said. "But that doesn't mean that should be to the exclusion of everything else."

He added that access to affordable health care was a longstanding problem that needed to be corrected.

"I disagree with the premise that (the president) prioritized health care above jobs," Goolsbee said. To top of page

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