Accuracy in Media

Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of  the Council of Economic Advisers and one of Barack Obama’s longest serving policy advisers, resigned suddenly on Monday just one day after struggling to defend the White House’s economic plan on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.”

Amanpour: This Friday this last jobs report was meant to be the acid test. What is that telling us? Is the recovery threatened?

Goolsbee: Well hold on. I said last month when we had an excellent jobs report, 100,000 above expectations  and I said again this Friday when it came in below expectations don’t make too much of any one months job report because they are highly variable. You want to look at a little more of a trend to get a more accurate barometer and the overall direction is yes somewhat slowed from the stiff headwinds of gas prices, of the events in Japan and of some of the events in Europe. But overall in the last six months we’ve added one million jobs in the private sector.

Amanpour: Right, but every economist including many of your advisers and colleagues have said that in order for this to be sustainable you actually have to have above 150,000 jobs per month and it was way below that this month.

Goolsbee: And the three months before that it was well above it.  What I’m emphasizing is that every economist know that the monthly numbers are highly variable so you want to look at a little bit more than just one month before concluding on a trend.

Amanpour apparently wasn’t very satisfied with Goolsbee’s answers so she switched her tactics a bit.

Amanpour: So what happens if this same kind of report comes out next month? What does that then tell you?

Goolsbee: Well look what we know is that we have moved a long way from when the economy is in a recuse mode, the private sector is in a free fall and the government is the only thing standing between us and falling into another Great Depression. We were losing 780,000 jobs a month when the president comes into office.  Fast forward to now and we’ve added one million jobs over the last six months. If we face stiff headwinds that are  shocks like the Japanese earthquake we have to deal with that, but I think the trend is relatively clear.

So no matter how Amanpour phrased her question on Friday’s unemployment report, Goolsbee just kept reciting his well rehearsed talking points.

When Amanpour quizzed Goolsbee about the “jobless recovery” he took issue with that characterization and said instead that we were climbing out of a very deep hole.

Goolsbee did his level best to defend the administration’s economic plan, but after being forced to stonewall Amanpour in what should have been a friendly interview. He may have realized that even the mainstream media want real answers and not just talking points, and so he decided to make a quick exit.

By fleeing to the academy he will be in far friendlier confines and won’t have to defend his less than stellar record in advising Obama on the economy, an issue which figures to play a major role in the 2012 elections.

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