Obama economy guru: Fiscal imbalance 'not materially worse'

The nation's overall fiscal imbalance “has not gotten materially worse in the last two years," President Obama's outgoing economic adviser said Friday.

Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee, who announced this week he was leaving the White House, defended the Obama administration’s fiscal record in comments at the National Press Club. 

The national debt has increased from $10.4 trillion to $14.3 trillion since Obama took office in 2009.

He said the biggest drivers of the debt have been known for a long time and did not change during Obama's years in office. He identified healthcare costs, the aging population and the Bush-era tax cuts, which Obama agreed to extend at the end of last year in a deal with congressional Republicans. 

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Goolsbee said the problem needs to be dealt with but that spending cuts should not impair investments in education, training and infrastructure. 

Goolsbee argued that preserving such investments are more important than addressing the fiscal imbalance.

"Those issues are long-standing and we should and must address them. But let us not forget, that that is not the No. 1 issue facing this country, we must deal with that issue, we must live within our means, but the No. 1 issue facing this country is that we grow,” he said.

Even as he argued against excessive cutting, Goolsbee in the same speech argued that at this stage in the recovery, it is not the time for massive new increases in government spending such as the 2009 stimulus bill.

Goolsbee announced this month that he is leaving the White House to return to teaching at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.