One of the president's departing economic aides says he's optimistic about the U.S. economy's future, but challenges officials to bridge the equality gap between the middle class and the very rich.
Alan Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, touted President Obama's policies, which he said has boosted the U.S. economy and promoted growth over the long haul. Although funding for early-childhood education and infrastructure has increased in the last four years, Krueger said that congressional obstructionism has made it difficult for the policies to take full effect.
"I'm optimistic about the U.S. economy," Krueger said at a National Journal Live event. "I think we have it within our control to strengthen our economy, to have an economy that works better for the middle class. I think it requires cooperation with Congress, though."
One way that Congress can help, he contends, is if it passes comprehensive immigration reform, citing the Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday that shows such reform will reduce the U.S. deficit by nearly $200 billion over the next 10 years.
Another area where Congress can make a difference, Krueger continued, is to promote policies that boost U.S. technology and utilize new energy solutions, specifically natural gas. This could help reduce energy prices, promote manufacturing, and create jobs.
"The only force that's stronger than globalization is the power of communities," he said. "The whole economy suffers if we don't take advantage of the talents of everyone in the country."
But Krueger said the U.S. economy is still based on a "winner-take-all" system, where the superrich continue to build their wealth while the rest of America falls behind. Every year in recent memory, Krueger said, more than $1 trillion of wealth is shifted to the top 1 percent of Americans, which strains the middle class.
Krueger is leaving his post to return to academia at Princeton University. Earlier this month, Obama nominated Jason Furman to replace Krueger as the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.