Peter Orszag shed some new light on why he left his post as White House budget director and brushed off criticism over his decision take a multi-million dollar job at CitiGroup in an interview with New York magazine.
Orszag claims he never wanted the job, but was unable to resist President Obama’s personal lobbying for him to accept the offer.
“Many of my mentors warned me that despite the ‘no drama’ Obama campaign, once in office this White House would inevitably be like others—and possibly worse. And unfortunately that’s exactly what happened,” Orszag said.
Orszag personally clashed with other White House officials, including Larry Summers, over the administration’s lack of motivation to lower the budget deficit, and Obama’s decision to make the Bush tax cuts for the middle class permanent. Orszag believed the tax cuts should have been temporarily extended and then allowed to expire in 2013, after the economy had ample time to recover.
“I didn’t think I could be an effective advocate for the administration on making the tax cuts permanent, and I didn’t want to be in office when that happened,” he said.
Orszag’s July 2010 White House departure was anything but cordial, as he was accused of leaking information from private meetings to the press, and his relationship with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other staffers progressively deteriorated, according to one anonymous Democratic aide.
In a September 7, 2010 New York Times op-ed, Orszag articulated his views on the then-ongoing Bush tax cuts extension debate, infuriating Emanuel and causing reporters to hound WH press secretary Robert Gibbs over the possibility of a policy divide within the administration.
It perhaps came as no surprise then when resentful White House aides decided to skip Orszag’s wedding that took place less than three weeks after the op-ed was published.
Orszag gave the White House more headaches in December 2010 after he joined CitiGroup as a vice chairman, receiving an estimated $2 to $3 million salary, helping some progressives reassert their belief that the administration was too cozy with Wall Street.
Orszag, however, calmly dismissed criticism from the left over his decision to join Citi: “I could have been totally comfortable doing something easy, going back to academe or a think tank, giving speeches, having a cushy consulting thing—ironically, which would have played off my White House experience much more than what I chose to do. Or I could have done something new, which would be harder,” he told New York magazine.