Obama lunches with economists

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was among a group of economists sharing lunch with President Obama on Wednesday, the White House said.

Bernanke was joined by Harvard professors Martin Feldstein and Edward Glaeser, Stanford professor Robert Hall, American Enterprise Institute scholar Kevin Hassett, University of Maryland professor Melissa Kearney and University of Chicago professor Luigi Zingales.

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It's the second such lunch with high-profile economists in less than a month. On June 18, Obama hosted a group including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Feldstein served as a Republican economic adviser and has been a vocal advocate for the privatization of Social Security, while Hall is among the original proponents of the flat tax.

Hassett served as Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) chief economic adviser during his 2008 battle against Obama for the presidency, while Zingales as advocated completely abolishing income tax in favor of a consumption tax.

The president called the meeting because he is “on the look[out] for some outside-the-box ideas for ways that we can strengthen America’s economic competitiveness and expand economic opportunity for the middle class,” according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

Bernanke, who stepped down from the Fed in February, has faced scrutiny over his handling of the financial crisis and use of the "quantitative easing" bond-buying program to boost the nation's financial recovery. But Obama hailed the Brookings Institution economist as “the epitome of calm” when nominating Janet Yellen, the current Fed chairwoman, as his replacement.