Obama Economy Advisor Leaving

WASHINGTON (AP) - Christina Romer, one of President Barack
Obama's most pivotal economic advisers, is resigning, a change that
comes as the White House struggles to show signs of clear economic
gains to a hurting nation.

Romer, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, announced
her resignation Thursday, effective Sept. 3. She becomes the second
high-level Obama aid to leave this summer, following the
resignation of White House Budget Director Peter Orszag.

She will return to her job as a professor of economics at the
University of California, Berkeley. The White House cast the
decision as an unsurprising one driven by family reasons; in a
statement, Obama said Romer has long wanted to return to
California, where her son will be starting high school in the fall.

Romer has been one of the administration's most prominent voices
on the economy, making frequent appearances on television and at
White House events to promote Obama's policies. Her resignation
comes as the White House labors to convince the public that the
economy is on the right track amid near-double digit unemployment.

Obama inherited an economic disaster in 2009. Since then, the
economy began growing, accelerating in the winter and spring. It
spurred some modest hiring but not enough to rapidly reduce the
unemployment rate, which is 9.5 percent.

"Christy Romer has provided extraordinary service to me and our
country during a time of economic crisis and recovery," Obama
said. "The challenges we faced demanded more of Christy than any
of her predecessors, and I greatly valued and appreciated her
skill, commitment and wise counsel."

Romer's resignation came amid a report that she had been
frustrasted that she didn't have as much access to the president as
Larry Summers, director of the White House National Economic
Council. One administration official, speaking on condition of
anonymity to discuss internal relations at the White House, played
down that notion, noting that Romer met with the president daily to
chart the government's response to the financial meltdown. The
official said Romer and Summers often emerged as strong allies.

Summers said Monday night that Romer has been "an extraordinary
friend and colleague at the White House", and he looked forward to
drawing on her advice in the future.

The official said no decision has been made on who will replace
Romer as head of the Council of Economic Advisers.

The White House has vigorously defended its interventions -
chiefly the $862 billion stimulus bill approved by Congress - as
moves that first prevented further freefall and then began turning
around the economy.

Romer, along with Vice President Joe Biden's top economist,
Jared Bernstein, wrote in a January 2009 report that the economic
stimulus package Obama was proposing would keep unemployment under 8 percent. Without the stimulus, the report said employment would
rise to about 9 percent in 2010. Yet unemployment has surpassed
that figure.

Republicans have seized on that point.

On Friday, the government will release unemployment numbers for
July that are expected to show a loss of 65,000 jobs because of the
end of temporary positions with the U.S. Census Bureau. The
unemployment rate is not expected to budge much from its current
9.5 percent.

Romer called her work the "honor of a lifetime". She said:
"While I look forward to returning to research and teaching, the
opportunity to help shape economic policy these past 20 months, and
to work with the other members of the economic team and my
colleagues on the CEA, is one I will always cherish."

A person close to Romer said she is a top contender to be named
president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, an
appointment that would be made by the regional organization's board
of directors. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because a
decision has not been made.

Orszag announced his resignation in June after a grueling,
nonstop sprint as director of the Office of Management and Budget
and as a key adviser to Obama. During his tenure, Congress passed
the most expensive economic stimulus program in U.S. history and a
massive health care reform bill.

Orszag oversaw Obama's first two budgets too. White House press
secretary Robert Gibbs said at the time that Orszag decided to
leave before work began on a third.


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