How Much Grey Matter Can One Brain Trust Hold?


Geithner, Bernanke and Rahmbo bet on how BDSM fashion will impact the Dow.

The twilight of the Obama Administration's first economic team raises a question: Do we know just how big the Obama economic team is? Presidential administrations have grown a forest of economic-analysis and fiscal-management bureaucracies over the years, and the czar-happy Obama Administration is no different. Here is a partial roster of the administration's economic all-stars and the bureaus they head up:

Paul Volcker, chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board (16 members);

Austan Dean Goolsbee, male chairlady of the Council of Economic Advisers (staff of 20);

Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to the vice president Joseph Biden (additional staff unknown);

Larry Summers, outgoing director of the National Economic Council (possibly to be succeeded by Anne Mulcahy), which also boasts deputy directors Diana Farrell and Jason Furman;

Don't worry. There are dozens more just like them.

Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management & Budget (Jacob Lew has been nominated as former OMB director Peter Orszag's replacement), which has at least six above-the-line staffers and an unknown number of support staffers.

There are plenty of other non-cabinet officials who confer with the Oval Office on economic policy, including FDIC chairwoman Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren, special advisor to the president and illegally appointed head of the new Consumer Finance Protection Agency. There are also free floaters who seem to be in on White House policy decisions, such as Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and her two deputies.

And then there are actual cabinet members with an economic portfolio: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Those folks have economists on retainer, and according to the Wikis, the entire official cabinet shows up for meetings of the NEC.

Not since Thomas Jefferson dined alone! This is easily 50 people. And who knows how many more researchers and sous-economists there are taking up desks?

In his treatise Politics, Aristotle writes, "For every one person added to a group, Teh Stoopit increases by a mulitplier of 1.55." Why not apply that sterling principle here? There are certainly some fine people listed above; reliable people have good things to say about Austan Goolsbee. But the cost of losing one is outweighed by the benefit of losing all. The president could realize a nominal cost savings and show he's finally getting serious about the economy if he eliminated all the non-cabinet positions other than the ones (such as FDIC and CFPA) that are mandated by law. It's bad enough that we have to have those, but can there be any doubt that a smaller general staff would be more effective than this alphabet soup?

No hope of that happening? Then shouldn't we at least expect all these economists to produce a steadier stream of studies, analyses, white papers and other pdfs for public consumption? Under what bushel is CEA hiding, for example, the light of staff economist Sayeh S. Nikpay, who has been out of college five years and should qualify as a grey eminence in the nation's capital?

NEXT: Nassim Taleb: ARRA Stimulus Leads to Total Canadian Domination

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  1. reason concern trolling for the Obama admin.

    1. Tony trolling reason concerning the Obama administration.

      1. yeah, but concern trolling is what reason is supposed to do unless a brickbat is warranted. did aristotle really quantify stupidity? ahead of his time, I say.

        1. Yeah, he could even type!

    2. tony offering brain-dead non-sequitur.

    3. It does kinda remind me of when the Republicans lost the Senate last time.

      Rumsfled dated his resignation letter November 6. The elections were on November 7, and President Bush announced that Rumsfeld had resigned on November 8…

      The stink of failure with these people isn’t generally enough to make them leave–it really does seem to take a drubbing at the polls to make them…face reality.

      In case it hasn’t sunken in yet, Tony, Obama-Lama-Ding-Dong Economics is over.

      No trolling required.

      Rahm Emanuel is probably leaving to run for Mayor of Chicago. What do you know that Rahm Emanuel doesn’t know, Tony?

  2. The Obama administration is committed to a strong Quatloo policy.

  3. I’ll wager 20 quatloos that if we don’t keep the Bush income tax rates on all income levels *and* we don’t get a payroll tax holiday enacted, the official unemployment rate will still be > 9% as of this time next year.

  4. Threadjack: Why don’t I ever get invited to these kind of parties …anymore?

    1. Who gives a fuck?

      1. You’re right. Nobody is interested in pictures of Lindsay Lohan shooting heroin and making out with Paris Hilton.

        1. At this point, why do they even allow anyone with a camera or a cell phone anywhere near them?

          1. Because they’re drugged-up rich whores?


            1. Because they know they can get attention by being drugged-up rich whores?


        2. What are the chances that the two (currently) biggest publicity-magnets in the whole celebrity industry ran into eachother at a party and decided to scandalously makeout with one another?

          I seem to recall a video a while back reputed to be (it was dark) Nicole Lenz and Paris Hilton having sex, which was worth watching repeatedly for verification purposes.

  5. In his treatise Politics, Aristotle writes, “For every one person added to a group, Teh Stoopit increases by a mulitplier of 1.55.”

    Seneca wrote that, you dunce.

  6. And what’s with all the Limey spellings?

  7. I think you’re being too harsh here, Tim.

    This bureaucratic bloat only happens at the White House level. Even then, it only is this administration that has experienced bureaucratic bloat at that level.

    The rest of the federal bureaucracy is still as streamlined as a anorexic dolphin.

    It’s not like growth for growth’s sake is a senior bureaucrat’s goal. Only demonstrably needed positions are created and those are abolished as soon as they are no longer needed.

    1. I’ll give this sarcasm a 9 out of 10, J sub.

    2. as streamlined as a anorexic dolphin

      Lmao, that is one of the best similes I’ve seen J sub D.

      1. and in J sub D’s honor I screwed up a blockquote 😛

      2. +1…that’s a keeper.

        1. In Bingo’s honor, I’ll post this again.

      3. +1…that’s a keeper.

  8. When Il Duce gathered all his brainiacci in a room to work their magic on the Italian ‘conomy, was there anything substantively different about them that the suits Obama surrounds himself with?

    Are we still really supposed to believe these people are mere “analysts”, “academics” and “advisers”, when, in fact, the president and his wunderkinds are balls deep in active, dirigist industrial policy?

    These people are essentially the board of directors of the friggin’ US economy, and they don’t even list their names in an annual report…

  9. Tim you’re on a role tonight

  10. So much anit-economist talk tonight.
    Next you’ll be saying they should have their own schools/camps.

  11. reliable people have good things to say about Austan Goolsbee

    There’s only one guy with that Monty Python joke of a name, right? Austan “Serious Free Market Guy” Goolsbee?

    I remember him from Slate. For a product of the Meritocracy?, the Gool is a surprisingly competent writer. He has an almost George Willian knack for slinging the libertarian-sounding anti-libertarian b.s. And like all our risen betters (merit!), he’s a fascist.

    That’s what “reliable” means, isn’t it? On time and shit?

    We do know who you’re talking about.

    1. That is pretty shitty journalism on Reason’s part. Who says good things? What good things? It strikes me as one of those times when I think Reason is really on the other side. The right people like Goolsbee so he must be okay. Bullshit.

      1. I think you’re missing the main point, John. The point isn’t whether Goolsbee is really one of the Best and Brightest, it’s about the rabbit-like multiplication of “experts” of dubious value.

        And by all accounts, George Bissell, Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA, and planner of the Bay of Pigs, was a brilliant man.

        1. I believe you mean Richard M. Bissell, Jr., nigger.

        2. In the news:

          Expert experts warn of rising use of experts.
          Overuse of experts a “big concern.”
          Ivy League education: Root cause, or symptom?

  12. Off topic: What the heck is with the “Nueva York” on tonight’s Jets-Dolphins game? We don’t call Costa Rica “Rich Coast” or Rio de Janeiro “January’s River”, do we?

    1. Yeah that and Futball Americano. Fuck NBC. Jsut call the damn game.

      1. It’s not a soap merger!

      2. C?te d’Ivoire has letters that aren’t even on my keyboard!

        1. I’ve always been mystified by the demand of “Ivoirians” that their country be referred to in the language of their colonial oppressors instead of by its English name. I mean, if they wanted to call it Booga Looga Ooga or whatever the native African name of the place was, I could understand, but French?

    2. Speaking of the NFL:

      It sure was sweet watching the Falcons whip the Ain’ts on their home field the Cannibal Rape Dome.

      1. IIRC the “chocolate river” and bodies in the freezer were supposed to be at the Convention Center.

        By the way, did you know your name stands for monkey AIDS?

        1. If you’ve been here a while you should remember it stands for “Single Issue Voter”. Which I was using when I decided to stop trolling/lurking so much.It was a very sincere (and effective) troll at the time so I kept it. Many commenters have used the “monkey-aids” ad hominem before you. It also stands for “structured investment vehicle” which played a large role in the recent economic unpleasantness.

    3. Hispanic heritage month. Wonder if they’ll do chinese for… god damn it, I can’t remember what asian heritage month is.

      The even dumber thing is dolphins in Espanol is delfines.

    4. I thought it was just me and my old tube TV. Hubby quipped it was a tribute to Sanchez’s ethnicity. He was pretty close, shame on me for doubting him.

  13. Mr. President, though few of us miss your predecessor, as it stands, even if you were to be granted a second term it would be impossible for the total number of months of employment expansion to occur to equal that of your predecessor. You insist on describing him as someone whose policies had failed us. If George W. Bush is a failure, than what does that make you?

    1. No union workers lost their jobs. That makes me a success.

    2. Then you’ll just have to give me 2 more terms.

  14. Quip:

    We have many fine economists with a range of theories and analysis.

    If our economic plan for the economy fails to work, rest assured that we have many more to pick from.

  15. I am a loser loser. These people are like winner losers. No matter how wrong, how superfluous, how redundant they are, they get to put on their resume that they were the Assistant Co-chair of the National Economic Advisory Committee for the Counsel of International Analysis For Economic Studies who reports to the Assistant Deputy Chief Economic Water Buffalo Poobah at the Department of Treasury….. and make a nice comfortable living doing what knows what.

    1. “who” knows what. I’m such a loser, I’ve lost my talent for snark.

      1. I hate to break this to you, but you’ve just won the loser contest.

  16. In his treatise Politics, Aristotle writes, “For every one person added to a group, Teh Stoopit increases by a mulitplier of 1.55.”

    I am nearly certain that Aristotle didn’t say that.

    1. Yeah – Tulpa noted that it was, in fact, Seneca.

  17. No. Tim Cav. is just the greatest translator of ancient Greek the world has ever seen. Aristotle said it, only Tim has the boldness to proclaim it.

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