WASHINGTON (AP) — Christina Romer, the departing chief of President Barack Obama’s economic advisory council, cast disagreements among key players on the White House economic team as a healthy part of reaching tough policy decisions.
“Everybody knows we’re all strong personalities,” Romer told The Associated Press on Friday. “We don’t hesitate to have a very aggressive back and forth. But I think one of the things that we have done is absolutely find our groove. We’re a wonderful team.”
Romer said she is leaving solely for family reasons. She has been a chief economic aide to Obama, along with such advisers as Larry Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The economic leadership team has faced scrutiny and worked through its share of debates as the administration tries to help move the country out of a mammoth, job-swallowing recession.
Romer has often been the public, optimistic face defending the president’s decisions.
“I think we’ve served the president well,” Romer said. “He likes to hear different points of view. And we think it helps us get to the best policy.”
Romer announced Thursday she is resigning her position effective Sept. 3 to return to the University of California, Berkeley, as an economics professor. She said she had long considered returning to California about this time and that she wants her 14-year-old son to spend his high school years in one place.
“We just decided that it was by far the best thing for the family,” said Romer, 51.
Romer is the second top-level economic aide to leave this summer, joining White House budget chief Peter Orszag.
Her comments came as a new jobs report showed that the nation’s unemployment rate is stuck at 9.5 percent. Private employers added only a modest total of 71,000 jobs in July. Romer said Obama isn’t satisfied with the pace of job growth but added, “We’re definitely on a trajectory for steady, gradual improvement.”
She said that despite her own dissatisfaction with the high level of unemployment, she leaves feeling good about the sweeping policies and interventions the government took under Obama. Among them was the costliest government effort ever to stimulate the economy and spur private job creation.
“This is not a place any of us wants to be,” she said of the current economic state, “but it is dramatically better than where we would have been.”
Romer 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. Romer said she would be honored to be considered, but that the process is not one that she or the White House controls.