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George Will on Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s Econo-Man

In today’s Washington Post, George Will profiles Austan Goolsbee, a colleague of Levitt’s at the University of Chicago and an economic adviser to Barack Obama. (You can see what we’ve written in the past about Goolsbee here.)

Will’s piece contains Goolsbee’s interesting take on imports from China and elsewhere, with facts that I am sure most Americans don’t know:

As regards China, Goolsbee — who favors a tougher approach, especially through the World Trade Organization — notes that all imports are only 16.7 percent of the U.S. economy and imports from China are a small portion of all imports. Those from China amount to 2.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. Mexico, he says, is genuinely stressed by China, whose exported products “overlap” with nearly two-thirds of Mexico’s. China’s exports overlap with 5 to 10 percent of America’s economy. Rising imports from China predominantly replace those from other lower-skilled countries. Were China to be pressured into revaluing its currency in isolation, Goolsbee says, America would not start making the kind of toys it has been importing from China — America would import toys from Vietnam.

Will seems pretty impressed with Goolsbee — but then, Will being Will, he ends his piece with this very left-handed compliment:

Economics is the only academic discipline that in recent decades has moved in the direction that America and much of the world has moved, to the right. Goolsbee no doubt has lots of dubious ideas — he is, after all, a Democrat — about how government can creatively fiddle with the market’s allocation of wealth and opportunity. But he seems to be the sort of person — amiable, empirical and reasonable — you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be.

I assume that “if such there must be” refers to a Democratic president, and not an economist at his elbow.