National Fiscal Recovery Team 

President Obama drafted many MIT-trained economists
to lead his economic recovery team


  L to R: Larry Summers (SB’75), Christina Romer (PhD’85), Austan Goolsbee (PhD’95)


Lawrence Summers (SB’75) is head of the National Economic Council. Previously, he served as Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and as chief economist at the World Bank.

“We must act with urgency to stabilize and repair the financial system,” Summers wrote in a three-page letter, released January 15, to US Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada.

The letter, meant to reassure congressional Republicans ahead of the vote that day on releasing the second half of the $700 billion financial package, also promised that, as president, Barack Obama will personally certify any “substantial new investments” from the bailout.

Summers promised further that the second $350 billion would not be used to enact “industrial policy.” The auto industry, which has already received billions in federal help, will receive additional money only in the context of “comprehensive restructuring designed to achieve long-term viability.”


Christina Romer (PhD’85), an expert in the Depression, serves as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Romer co-authored Obama’s plan for economic recovery with economist Jared Bernstein.

At her confirmation hearing January 15, Romer said she never dreamed that her scholarship on the Great Depression would be useful in formulating current economic policy. She said that her chief task will be to “ensure that the tragedy of the 1930s is not repeated.”

At her hearing, Romer said Obama’s stimulus package will go not just for short-term job creation but for public investments in infrastructure and education. “If we have to spend all this money, let’s make sure we get the long-term dividends,” she said.

Romer is also co-director of the monetary economics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research.


Austan Goolsbee (PhD’95), head of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is an expert on tax policy. Goolsbee advised Obama in his 2004 Senate race and was senior economic advisor to the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

A prolific author, Goolsbee wrote two regular columns on economics in The New York Times, “Economic View” and “Economic Scene,” before joining the Obama campaign. He also wrote the column “Dismal Science” for Slate and has published op-ed articles in Forbes, Fortune, and in major daily newspapers. Goolsbee, formerly an economics professor at the University of Chicago, has countered allegations that President Obama’s stimulus plan is anti-free-market.

“Getting us out of the hole we’re in, promoting oversight and making investments so the economy can grow doesn’t make you anti-market,” Goolsbee says. “It’s totally pro-market.”


Soundings, Spring 2009