Furman: Economy looking strong, if Washington cooperates

The White House’s top economic adviser touted Thursday the economic gains under President Obama, while warning against Washington weighing against another strong year in 2015.

“There’s every reason to believe the United States can have another good year economically in 2015,” said Jason FurmanJason FurmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden: We will fix nation's problems White House scrambles to avert supply chain crisis The Fed needs to articulate its framework for inflation MORE, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. “To make sure that happens, it’s important that we avoid brinksmanship, that we avoid unnecessary austerity.”

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At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Furman sought to strike a balance oft sought by the administration, recognizing the economic gains of the last year or so, while noting the ongoing struggles of many in the U.S.

He noted that the unemployment rate has fallen “much further, much faster than anyone predicted,” and contended that theories the U.S. is entering some sort of permanent malaise have been disproven by 2014’s gains. That notion of “secular stagnation” had been put forward by, among others, Larry Summers, who previously held Furman’s position under Obama.

“It’s hard to look at the growth of the economy over the past year and find a whole lot of support for that thesis,” he said.

Economic inequality has emerged since the midterm elections as a key talking point among both parties, as the two jockey to argue their policies are the best cure for the concerns of a middle and lower class that has not enjoyed much of the economic gains made recently.

Furman acknowledged that overall economic inequality remains a challenge, but noted that policies pushed by the administration have eased what could have been even worse.

Noting the number of middle-class tax breaks pushed by the administration, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, he said the White House has helped do what it could to boost take-home pay for workers.

“When you take all of that into account, the policies of this administration have substantially reduced income inequality relative to what you otherwise would have had,” he said.

Furman’s remarks came on the heels of a new economic report from the White House, which analyzed the recent gains from the economy, while making the case for several administration policy priorities to boost it further.

Among the items on that list is trade promotion authority, which would make it easier for Congress to approve new trade deals. The administration is facing significant pushback from some fellow Democrats, wary of what new global trade agreements could mean for American workers. President Obama has argued streamlining how trade deals are approved by Congress will help boost the economy, to the benefit of everyone involved.

Furman continued that argument Thursday, contending that the administration’s trade agenda is about ensuring the U.S. has the best possible position in the global marketplace.

“The case that we’re making is that these deals are a better way to manage globalization. We’re knocking down a lot more barriers to our exports overseas than we are here,” he said.

Furman noted that the White House is interested in both reducing tariff barriers, but also lifting worker standards as well. And he was confident their push would eventually win the day.

“I’m very confident it would be good for American workers, and I’m very confident we have a strong case,” he said.