The chronicles of Austan Goolsbee

Obama's economic advisor admits he talked about trade with Canadian officials. But he was misquoted! Except he was telling the truth!

By Andrew Leonard
March 3, 2008 10:52PM (UTC)
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(Note: This is an excerpt of a post from Salon's How the World Works blog. The full post can be read here.)

Our latest installment in the riveting spectacle of "Economists Gone Wild": Austan Goolsbee, Barack Obama's chief economic advisor, now acknowledges that he did have a conversation discussing trade policy with Canadian government officials. But, he says, his comments were inaccurately portrayed in a memo written on the meeting.


The Associated Press has the memo. The key segment:

Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans ...

On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favor of strengthening/clarifying language on labor mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more "core" principles of the agreement.

(Goolsbee conceded that the sentence on labor mobility and the environment was "true and consistent.")

Again: It is highly unlikely that Goolsbee was authorized specifically by the Obama campaign to offer comfort and succor to Canadians worried about Obama's discouraging NAFTA words. But despite Goolsbee's claim that he was mis-memoed, his position obviously reflects reality, for both the Obama and the Clinton campaigns. This is a shame. Because the real nut of the issue, as Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under Bill Clinton, pithily explains on his own blog, is not NAFTA's purported role in the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio, but how, going forward, the United States can best take care of those Americans who are hurt by trade.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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