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OK, Maybe Not Uwe Reinhardt for Labor Secretary, But Maybe Alan Krueger?

In the Comments thread yesterday to my Uwe-Reinhardt-For-Labor-Secretary post, an old fellow “Frayster” (definition: Someone who posted regularly to Slate’s wonderful, late, great “Fray” comments board), Woolley, wrote:

I don’t know anything about Uwe and after reading your piece, I still don’t know anything about [him]. Can you tell us why [he] is such a good candidate and what exactly you think the DoL should be doing?

Here’s what I wrote in response:

Hi again, Woolley. Reinhardt’s Wikipedia page is [here].  His Princeton page is [here].

This post of mine hasn’t exactly gone off the charts for hits, maybe because most everyone who did read it probably rolled their eyes.  I guess they recognize that the chance that Reinhardt would accept an offer to become Labor secretary is about as likely as that he’d be offered the position.  Which is to say, not … um … great.

Reinhardt, as I said in my post, is prominent these days mainly for his expertise in the economics of healthcare funding and insurance.  But, in looking just now for an example of his writings on labor issues, I found a good example, from two years ago, [here].  He is, or at least was, one of the regular contributors to the NYT’s Economix blog.  

The blog is subtitled “Explaining the Science of Everyday Life,” and that post of Reinhardt’s is called “How Convincing Is the Case for Free Trade?”  In it, he makes clear the distinction between free trade and offshoring.  He does that partly by discussing a 2007 article in the Washington Post by his Princeton Econ. Dept. colleague Alan Blinder called “Free Trade’s Great, but Offshoring Rattles Me.”  That issue and, I believe, the issue of whether modern technology–robots in manufacturing; computers of all sorts–really is different than earlier huge advances in technology, such as the automobile putting horse-buggy makers out of business, in its effect on employment, worldwide, but especially in advanced economies like ours.  

Blinder is, best as I can tell, the most prominent liberal Princeton economist other than Paul Krugman.  He would be a wonderful choice as Labor secretary, but my impression is that he would be too risky a pick, politically, just as Krugman would be.  Same, I suppose, for Brad Delong. Which is why I suggested Reinhardt instead.  

The point I was trying to make in my post has less to do with Reinhardt himself than with my hope for the appointment as Labor secretary of an economist well-versed in the academics of these issues and also who has the ability to explain these things clearly, and publicly, to lay people.  And to help Obama do that.

Another excellent choice–one I didn’t think of until this morning–would be Alan Krueger, another liberal Princeton-associated economist, and one who actually could, theoretically, be nominated.  That’s because since November 2011, he has been the chairman of the White House Counsel of Economic Advisors. He has done extensive research and writing on issues of growing inequality, and the role of government-supported education in the economy.  His Wikipedia page is [here].

Hope that takes care of it.

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