Steering clear of economic ‘suicide’

STEERING CLEAR OF ECONOMIC ‘SUICIDE’…. There’s been no shortage of talk in recent weeks about shifting the economic focus away from recovery efforts and towards deficit reduction. About two weeks ago, for example, a Washington Post report suggested President Obama and his team want to spur job growth, but they’re principally concerned with keeping the deficit in check.

Since then, we’ve seen ample evidence to the contrary. The president, this week, said, “[I]f we can’t grow our economy, then it is going to be that much harder for us to reduce the deficit. The single most important thing we could do right now for deficit reduction is to spark strong economic growth, which means that people who’ve got jobs are paying taxes, and businesses that are making profits … are paying taxes. That’s the most important thing we can do.”

This morning, leading members of the White House economic team agreed that job creation and economic growth have to take precedence.

President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser says creating jobs takes priority over reducing the country’s red ink in the next year.

Larry Summers says priority No. 1 must be getting people back to work and lowering the country’s 10 percent unemployment rate.

Summers says only then can the Obama administration begin working to reduce the deficit — a problem he blames largely on the Bush administration.

Specifically, Summers told CNN that “there’s no more important issue facing the country than job growth.” Republicans, obviously, have made clear they prefer to focus on the deficit they created, but I’m heartened to hear the administration argue otherwise.

A White House economic adviser says it would be “suicide” for the government to focus exclusively on the deficit when the economy is sorely in need of jobs.

Christina Romer says money freed up from the repayment of financial bailout funds gives the government the leeway to try to boost employment while seeking to control the deficit over the longer term.