Obama's economic team exhausted

Obama's economic team exhausted

President Obama’s economic team is exhausted, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, and that is one of the reasons Christina Romer announced her departure Thursday.

Gibbs dismissed reports that Romer, the outgoing chairwoman of the president's council for economic affairs, was leaving because of conflicts with Larry Summers, the director of the National Economic Council.

The press secretary told The Hill on Friday that Romer and the rest of the economic team have worked the equivalent of six years during the 18 months they’ve been in office, and Romer wanted to return to her normal life.

"These guys have probably packed a term and a half into a half of a term," Gibbs said.

Romer is the second member of the economic team to leave this summer. She follows Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The early days of the administration alone were enough to wear the team down, he said, as they realized the depth of the recession.

"If you think about what we went through in the beginning, nobody knew when we woke up if the whole thing was just going to come crashing down," Gibbs said.

Romer was involved in the administration’s planning of the $787 billion economic stimulus package. Ever since the legislation was approved by Congress, she’s been at the forefront of the administration’s effort to sell the product to the public.

That’s been difficult given the fact that the nation’s unemployment rate soared to 10 percent after the legislation’s approval. The administration had hoped the jobless rate would top off at 8 percent.

Romer was the administration's public face every month when the national unemployment numbers were released — usually to bad news. She issued a statement Friday noting the private sector created 71,000 jobs in July, not enough to lower unemployment.

Reports surrounding her departure suggest she was leaving because of the heavy presence of Summers, an economist with a reputation for less-than-stellar people skills, and because she was frustrated with life in Washington.

Gibbs dismissed those stories, saying Romer had been in on every critical meeting with Obama on the economy and played a key role in the White House's economic policies.

"I bet there's not a CEA in history that has spent more time in front of the president than she has," Gibbs said.

Romer echoed that line in an interview with MSNBC.

"I feel very strongly that my voice has absolutely been heard," she said Friday. "And I also have to tell you, I feel the economics team has learned to work together very well. I know there were lots of reports of some fireworks early on, but the truth is we have become good friends and good colleagues."

She also said she was leaving for personal reasons.

“I have a 13-year-old son who’s about to turn 14 and start high school in the fall. And we made the decision as a family that the right decision was to return to California so he could have all four years at the same school,” she told MSNBC.

Romer was one of the more liberal members of the president's economic team.

Her departure leaves Jared Bernstein, the top economic adviser to Vice President Biden and a former staffer at the union-backed Economic Policy Institute, as the most senior liberal economist in the administration.

Romer will resign on September 3 and return to her position as an economic professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

She is the second major economics adviser to leave the administration after budget director Peter Orszag’s departure last month.

— Walter Alarkon and Bridget Johnson contributed to this article