White House Weighs In On Jobs Report

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For more on the latest jobs numbers, host Michele Norris speaks to Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. On Friday, Goolsbee also helped unveil what the government is calling its "Strategy for American Innovation."


For more on today's jobs numbers, we're joined by Austan Goolsbee. He's chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He also helped unveil today what the government is calling its Strategy for American Innovation.

Mr. Goolsbee, welcome to the program.

Mr. AUSTAN GOOLSBEE (Chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisers): Thank you for having me, Michele.

NORRIS: Now, before we talk innovation, we should spend some time talking about those jobs numbers. Thirty-six thousand net new jobs and we, as a country, need to create three or four times that just to keep up with population growth. Can the White House create jobs? Do you have the power to do that, or is that something that's really left best to the business community?

Mr. GOOLSBEE: Well, I think the private sector is clearly got to be the main driver of long-term job creation in the country. We're coming out of a stage in which the private sector was in freefall, and we were in rescue mode. But we are exiting that stage.

We are now at a stage where there is money that has been accumulated on the sidelines. You've started to see an upturn in business investment, that the policy response to that shift is - let us pass policies like the president's tax deal, which give incentives for the private sector to stand up. But really, we are now shifting to where it ought to be, the private sector doing the revving of the engine.

NORRIS: Can you quickly walk us through the basics of this Strategy for American Innovation? What will drive that?

Mr. GOOLSBEE: Well, I'd say the key building blocks of an innovation strategy are educating your population, doing research and development, building the infrastructure that your industry needs to grow. And then on top of that foundation, orienting around the private sector through small business, encouraging start-ups, and then some reform of the patent system so that inventors don't have to wait - literally - three years to get their applications approved - that we get that time down substantially to allow smaller inventors to get to market quicker - focus on clean energy, and some other national priorities. That's, in some sense, the pyramid of innovation - that there are these baseline building blocks, but then we also have this orientation to the private market.

NORRIS: The word innovation - I just have to ask you about something because I'm thinking about people I have met in traveling around the country. And the word innovation, what that sometimes mean to people who are in jobs, they have a certain worry when they hear that term, that it means that they might be replaced with someone who's younger or faster or replaced by a machine.

Mr. GOOLSBEE: Well, I certainly hope that it doesn't get that implication. When we say innovation, I think what we mean is creating new ideas and new products and things that can be built in America, and they can be sold around the world or they can be sold here at home; that the people making it will be getting higher pay and higher productivity, and making America a more competitive place to do business.

NORRIS: I have one, last question for you, Mr. Goolsbee. You don't strike me as a pessimistic man. But I wonder, when we listen to the president talk about America facing this sort of Sputnik moment, what worries you? What keeps you up at night? Which country, or what entity, might overtake us if we don't get this right?

Mr. GOOLSBEE: You know, the competiveness is of our companies and of our workers, so it doesn't have to be any one country. I mean, a lot of people talk about China, but I think it is worth noting we're 12 times richer than China. But we don't want to fall behind. We have always been the most productive, the best educated, the most innovative with the most successful start-ups in the world. We can maintain that.

What keeps me up at night is the long-run, nagging stuff that we know we've got to do to invest and be winning the future and keeping our people trained; that in the midst of the short-run battles, sometimes we can forget about those longer-run investments. And we really shouldn't.

NORRIS: Austan Goolsbee is the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Good to talk to you again. Thank you very much.

Mr. GOOLSBEE: Oh, great to talk to you, Michele.

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