Austan Goolsbee debuted as the new chair of the Council of Economic Advisors on This Week with Christiane Armanpour today and made a feisty (well, feisty for an economist!) defense of the president's tax policies. I'm still waiting to hear someone bring up reports from last week in which Obama wouldn't say he'd use his veto power if Dems compromised with Republicans over the tax cuts for the wealthy -- because obviously, his "strong stand" is just posturing if he doesn't back it up with the veto:
AMANPOUR: Hello. The world economy once looked to the American consumer to pull it out of recession. Not anymore. Now the world is looking to China and emerging economies where growth is taking hold. At his news conference on Friday, President Obama admitted that economic progress here was, quote, "painfully slow."
Joining me this morning, the president's top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, who's just been appointed chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. Thank you for joining us here. Thank you very much.
I want to ask you what's just happened. The House Minority Leader John Boehner has said that the only -- that he would consider extending the middle class tax cuts, "if the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for it," he said on "Face the Nation" this morning. What is your reaction to that?
GOOLSBEE: Well, I obviously haven't seen the comments, but I noticed the qualifier, if my only choice is. If he's truly saying that we can, as the president called for, get a broad consensus to extend the middle class tax cuts, we should do it.
AMANPOUR: And he's obviously saying...
GOOLSBEE: We shouldn't hold that hostage for the argument about the tax cuts just for the very, very highest income people. So if he's for that, I would be happy. In the past, we have seen some of these circumstances in which what appears to be the offer of doing this -- the sensible thing, in the light of day there was a little bit of a feeling, well, if the president is for it, I'm against it, and then it falls apart.
AMANPOUR: All right, well, he does obviously go on to say that he's obviously going to do everything he can to fight to make sure that all the tax cuts are extended. But if this does happen and he is going to vote for an extension of the middle class tax cuts, how do you think that those Democrats who oppose what the president wants to do will be brought on board? In other words, will they also go for just the middle class tax cuts and get this done by the midterms?
GOOLSBEE: Well, I certainly hope so. I believe -- I'm not a political expert, but I believe there is a broad consensus, a middle ground if you will, that Democrats and Republicans, business people and workers can agree on, to get this -- the economy growing faster, getting people back to work. It's exactly what the president tried to do and is trying to emphasize with the policies he outlined this week. And we ought to do that. We ought to come together.
Now, I have noticed in Congress there is a bit of a different philosophy, I think, between what Representative Boehner is putting forward and what the president is putting forward. So the president is saying, let's reach out and find this middle ground of what things can get the economy growing, let's have incentives for small business, for investment, so people want to build factories and employ people in this country, and we give tax relief to the middle class. I would point out that Representative Boehner has a different view and is calling for repealing the rest of the stimulus, which would raise taxes on 110 million middle class people.
AMANPOUR: Let's take a few of these step by step. It looks like Representative Boehner is, if you take him as what he just said, that he says he will vote for it if that's the only option he has. But I want to ask you, because the president does say this week that he wants to extend the Bush era middle class tax cuts, but allow those for the wealthy to expire. Now, one of your former colleagues, Peter Orszag of the OMB, he had an op-ed in the New York Times in which he suggested that higher taxes now would, quote, "trim consumer spending." In other words, that it would sort of harm the economy at this point. And extend them all for the next two years. Is that a go (ph)?
GOOLSBEE: I obviously know Peter Orszag very well. His column was not an economic column. It was a political column. He made the political argument that if we extended them all for two years, then the Republicans could be convinced to agree to get rid of the higher income tax cuts after the two years.
AMANPOUR: So would you do that?
GOOLSBEE: I don't think that politically is correct. I think Representative Boehner made clear he wants to go back to the tax policy and budget policy of the Bush administration.
AMANPOUR: But he did make the economic argument that at this time, it would trim consumer demand.
GOOLSBEE: Well, the president does not need to take lessons in tax cuts from anyone. He cut taxes for hundreds of millions of people. We have cut taxes across the board. We cut taxes for small business eight different times. And the president now has a small business bill sitting in Congress that is behind held up by some Republicans in the Senate, that would cut them eight different more times.