Obama's secret meeting with left-wing economic critics

The administration has repeatedly scoffed at the “professional left” for being critical of any sort of compromise with congressional Republicans but privately it's apparent that it is concerned with such attacks. In fact, on the very day that the President Barack Obama announced he had reached a deal to delay tax increases for all income brackets, Obama met privately with a number of liberal economists who were critical of his policies. Michael Hirsh at National Journal reports:

At a White House news conference on December 7 in which he announced a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, Barack Obama chastised his liberal base for sticking unrealistically to their “purist” positions.

What the president didn’t say was that a few hours earlier he had met with and tried to assauge some his most vociferous liberal critics — economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Alan Blinder, and Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary.

In what two participants describe as a somewhat-argumentative one-hour discussion, Obama tried to convince the group that his compromise would deliver more bang for the buck to the economy and to people most in need of help than any other politically feasible option.

Alongside Obama were Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of his Council of Economic Advisors, and Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economist. Bernstein is considered a left-of-center economist, as is Goolsbee to some extent.

The two participants, both of whom would recount the conversation only on condition of anonymity, said that the conversation came to no resolution.

“He didn’t really respond,'' said one of the participants. “He said it was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of small-government rhetoric and policies dating back to Ronald Reagan. “He seemed to be looking for a way to reassure the base. Or maybe it was just to reassure himself.”

Another participant said the meeting was mostly good-natured and polite, but that the president complained about how hard it was to get anything through Congress.

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