Obama appoints infra advocate to head Council of Economic Advisers

Alan Krueger – a labour economist who has advocated increasing infrastructure investment, extending the Build America Bonds programme and establishing a National Infrastructure Bank – will head the US Council of Economic Advisors.

US President Barack Obama has chosen Alan Krueger, a Princeton University professor and former assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy who has advocated increased infrastructure spending, to chair the US Council of Economic Advisers.

The Council, which is comprised of three members as well as a staff of economists and researchers, serves as an agency within the executive branch of the US government that advises the President on economic policy. Krueger’s appointment requires Senate confirmation. 

Testifying before a Senate committee last September, Krueger, then working for the Treasury Department, emphasised the importance of spending on infrastructure even during a recession: [The US government] “must do more to ensure that investment in infrastructure is not reduced for the wrong reasons, as the need for improved infrastructure is just as great during a downturn as it is during a boom”.

Krueger argued in favour of a National Infrastructure Bank, saying it could “create the conditions for greater private sector co-investment in infrastructure projects” and fill in gaps in funding for multi-modal and cross jurisdiction projects. 

He is also in favour of extending the Build America Bonds (BABs) programme, which enabled municipal governments to issue taxable debt for which the federal government subsidised a portion of the interest costs. While at the Treasury Department, Krueger worked on the economic analysis of the BABs programme, the White House said in a statement. 

In related news, Obama called on Congress yesterday to pass a “clean” extension of existing surface transportation legislation in order to fuel job growth.  The current legislation expired in 2009, and has been propped up by seven short term extensions since then, the most recent of which is set to expire on September 30. 

Obama wants the US to “reform the way that transportation money is invested” to help cut waste and get “the private sector more involved”. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair John Mica, a Republican, said he would consider one more extension of current highway spending legislation, which he said would be the eighth extension of the “overdue” transportation reauthorisation.

Mica blamed the President and Congressional Democrats for the stalled progress, saying that they “neglected aviation legislation for more than four years and left major transportation legislation in the ditch for more than a year”.