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December 7, 2007

Austan Goolsbee on advising Obama

More Goolsbee blogging on the last night of the Autumn quarter at the U of C.Freakonomics has a post up with advisers to various Presidential candidates discussing their various jobs. Goolsbee, who is advising Obama (a role I discussed here), chimes in:

An economic adviser’s role depends on the adviser and on the campaign. I like to say that it’s half policy advising, half facilitating discussions with experts, and half doing a lot of grunt work.In the case of someone like Senator Obama, who is interested in policy ideas that go beyond traditional divides and thus aren’t so easily plucked from existing legislation, the job entails a lot of discussing issues with experts across the ideological spectrum and giving the Senator access to differing points of view. As such, we might start with a general subject on which the Senator is interested in rolling out policy, and bring in a series of diverse experts on the subject for a briefing or a set of conference calls. From there, the policy staff might put together a set of possible policy options, cost them out, analyze who would be affected, and so on, and then we would put the results before the Senator and adjust them according to what he thinks.Once we have a position he’s enthusiastic about, there is a team of folks who turns the position into a roll-out — speechwriters, scheduling managers, strategy and communications experts, etc. At that point, the policy folks take care of the more mundane tasks such as providing documentation for positions and writing fact sheets that explain the policy.As an academic, I would have to say that my role is pretty thrilling, specifically because Senator Obama is such a special candidate. He’s a political leader, but has an intellectual curiosity and intelligence level as high as any hard-core policy expert. Starting out, I wasn’t as familiar with the political side of a campaign (though what other side is there, right?), so it has been a real education for me to help translate economic ideas into a form that is usable for the purposes of legislation.