Dr. Christina Romer speak on the economy and assorted economic topics the other night.
I've met her several times, at church, at the grocery store, and at a school our sons once attended. Mrs. Romer is a delightful woman, always smiling, very friendly and approachable.
The other night at her son's school, she was disarming and charming as usual. And while she addressed heady subjects with a brilliance that only someone with a CV like THIS can do, Dr. Romer did it with great warmth and to lots of laughter. (In fact, when the moderator of the evening introduced her, and outlined Dr. Romer's education and accomplishments, I turned to my friend and said, "I should just smack myself." What losers most of us in the audience were by comparison!)
At any rate, to my regret, I did not take notes. It was too cramped and I could not even move my arms. But I have a few take aways from the two-hour talk and discussion with one of her colleagues at UC Berkeley. The best is about the vote on heath care reform. At 11 o'clock that night, President Obama invited everyone involved with the legislation back to the White House to celebrate on the Truman Balcony.
That included even the researchers who worked for Dr. Romer. FLOTUS and the girls were away, and at 1am, POTUS said he was tired and was going to retire for the night. But he invited everyone to stay and even "look around."
Well, of course the Truman Balcony is on the second floor, in the private residence. So many took the President up on his offer, and wandered around, even sitting on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. A few might have even bounced up and down on it. Great fun was had by all.
There were more anecdotes that painted a president who was humane, human, very smart and capable of absorbing immense amounts of information. When she brought him unemployment numbers one month that were staggeringly low, he misunderstood her, thinking she said 110,000 instead of 11,000. When he took in Dr. Romer's correction, the president then hugged her four times and gave her one kiss on the cheek.
President Obama is a man interested in facts and analysis, not politicking among his staff or vying for his attention. He wanted the data brought to him and he wanted to hear recommendations and assessment of a situation. Who was right and who was in power did not matter. He then made up his mind based on facts.
Dr. Romer one day asked Rahm Emanuel why she was appointed to head up the Council on Economic Advisors. And he pointed out that she was a leading expert on the great American Depression. They figured they might need her again because were this close to seeing history repeating itself. How close? "Terrifyingly close."
TARP was the right thing to do and the money has been paid back. But the banks are still not lending sufficiently, and bankruptcy laws prevent them from restructuring primary mortgages in bankruptcy filings. She'd like to see that changed.
Administration lawyers are confident that health care reform will stand up to legal challenges. And it is our children who will stand to benefit the most from the specific reforms in the legislation.
I wish I could give you more detail on her comments about the economy. But I don't want to make this post any more vague than it already is. And I had to pass/fail economics in college. Though my professor was incredibly handsome.
I'll leave off with the assessment that Europe is screwed, absolutely screwed, unless they take more direct action and advice. And if they go down, yes, it will affect us.
A final question on Bain Capital was handled with great poise and dexterity. Suffice to say that there are arguments for and against capitalism (my words more or less - hers were far more eloquent.)
All in all, I'll say this: I recall waking our son and watching the inauguration in 2009. And I recall clearly seeing Dr. Romer and her husband, David Romer, enter the balcony at the Capital where they would sit with other cabinet members and distinguished guests. They were both beaming, from ear to ear, and 3,000 miles away I felt what must have been the "shock and awe" of being part of something great.
Now that Mrs. Romer is home and back at Cal, I still see her beaming. Even if it's in the produce aisle at our local market. Now, go look at her CV and tell me if you want to smack yourself upside the head with me. What a loser. I need to go work on the second novel!