As Democratic Party Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama tours the country talking about the economy in places such as Michigan, he inevitably uses the rhetoric of “change,” “hope,” and talks about the need to reform economic policies. However, at the same time he is advocating such a message, he is selecting advisors that have been associated with may of the unrestricted free-market policies–such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)–that Obama has opposed during his campaign.
In an article for The Nation, author Naomi Klein provided an important study of Obama’s economic team. Beyond appointing Jason Furman, an economist who has defended Wal-Mart as being a “progressive” company, he is also being advised by Austan Goolsbee, a Chicago School economist who is at best center-right. Goolsbee–unlike some Chicago School economists such as Milton Freidman— does see inequality as a problem, but believes that education is the primary way to address it. Obama also receives advice from Kenneth Griffin. Griffin is the CEO of hedge fund Citadel Investment Group and who–not surprisingly–has strongly opposed closing the hedge fund tax loophole.
Klein argues that this is problematic because they may try to pressure Obama to forgo serious attempts at regulating the economy. She reminds readers that in the two-and-a-half months between winning the 1992 presidential election and being sworn into office, President Bill Clinton–who campaigned promising to revise NAFTA–made a complete reversal on his policies and embraced the neoliberal model. One of the Clinton’s key advisors, Robert Rubin, is associated with Jason Furman. Moreover, Naomi Klein asks why Obama is associating himself with the Chicago School after its policies have been largely repudiated around the world.