Economy chief defends record in Obama's final year

Economy chief defends record in Obama's final year

President Obama’s chief economic adviser said Friday that global economic issues, not domestic, were the biggest challenges to the United States.

Despite sluggish wage growth and tepid consumer spending, the United States economy is in enviable shape compared to other countries, said Jason FurmanJason FurmanTrillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard Billionaires paid lower tax rate than working class for first time in US history: study Economy adds 130K jobs in August, falling below expectations MORE, chief of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, at a breakfast with reporters.

As Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers rail against what they see as overzealous financial regulation hamstringing U.S. businesses and growth, Furman defended the American economy and the White House’s policy as a model in tumultuous times. 

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"The U.S. has been the biggest success story of any the economies in the world in rebounding from the financial crisis,” said Furman, “and our growth continues to be considered by people around the world as one of the bright spots in the global economy."

"The biggest concern I face for our economy is the impact the rest of the world will have on the U.S. economy,” said Furman, pointing to a slowdown in U.S. exports tied to lower global demand as “a persistent drag” on American growth.

Slow economic and wage growth has been a constant target for Republicans and even some Democratic critics. Furmand defended the post-recession White House’s financial regulations, which Republicans often blame for unsatisfactory growth despite more than 70 months of consecutive private-sector job creation.

“When people go through all the different concerns about the global economy, I think it's encouraging that the United States banking system is not on anyone's list, and for good reason, because we've undertaken reforms that put it in much better shape than it had been in for a long time,” said Furman.

"But the productivity growth slowdown is something you're seeing across a range of economies, some of which did reform their financial systems and some of which didn't. So I think something else is going on.”

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Furman cited consumer spending and business investment as areas with room for improvement, but attributed the lag in part to a financial crisis hangover.

“Part of it is being through a very traumatic economic experience which is only eight years past us,” said Furman. “Those effects can last for decades — it can affect the way you think.”

A major aspect of ramping up the economy, Furman said, is an aggressive agenda for Obama’s final year in office. Beyond pushing to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), administrative agencies have released rules on Wall Street executive pay and retirement adviser conflicts of interests, and will soon release a rule on payday lending.

Obama also expressed openness to working with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDuncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard MORE (R-Wis.) on anti-poverty legislation and tax reform.

Even though passing the first major tax code overhaul since the Reagan administration would be almost impossible in an election year, Ryan and congressional leaders are working on a package that could move in 2017.

"I think it's always good when people put out policy ideas and are specific about those policy ideas. In some cases those policy ideas help advance an issue,” said Furman. "The big question is are we addressing a legitimate economic problem ... or are we trying to cut taxes for high-income individuals and raise their after-tax income?"