I think we're lucky that Obama came from Chicago, because when he started casting about for economic advisors, he had a rich vein of stellar, market-oriented economists to mine. From the beginning, one of the most prominent of these has been Austan Goolsbee, a brilliant, pragmatic behavioral economist, although he has receded into the background a bit since the end of the primaries.
My efforts to read the tea leaves of Obamanomics brought me to this podcast by Megan McArdle (on whom I have a bit of a crush.) McArdle is a former student of Goolsbee's, and supported Obama primarily because of Goolsbee's influence. Megan is a bit squishier on taxes than I am, which is probably why she was able to gin up more "enthusiasm" for Obama than I could (if "enthusiasm" is indeed the correct word here, which it probably isn't.) In short, I think it says something for Obama that both Goolsbee and McArdle would be supportive of his candidacy.
The interview is a bit dated by now, but still worth a listen. They spoke of the current financial collapse in a way that was almost prescient. To hear Goolsbee express his unqualified support for the capital markets, and for commonsense, minimalistic but effective regulation, especially in this context, is very reassuring.
Goolsbee then goes on to make the most compelling and convincing case I have ever heard about the growing problem of income inequality. When he comes to the solution, he is somewhat less convincing, however. Here he simply avers that greater investment in education is without a doubt the panacea for this problem. Perhaps in a lengthier format he could convince me of this, but he doesn't do much in this interview to support this contention, nor does he explain why our current levels of education funding, already among the highest in the world, have proved so inadequate. But whatever.
Unfortunately, Goolsbee is downright lame when talking about the pharmaceutical companies. When Megan expresses her concern that cracking down on Big Pharma could have a deleterious impact on R&D, Goolsbee responds dismissively with cheap sophistry. I guess even a brilliant economist can still have that empirical, quantifiable logic trumped by ideology when he's not careful.
Still, though, I found the interview to be more comforting than not overall. Megan herself is now disappointed by rumors that Goolsbee himself may not find a prominent position in the administration. That does seem unfortunate, but hopefully whatever drew Obama to Goolsbee in the first place is a positive sign -- as, I believe, is Obama's appointment of Tim Geithner to Treasury. We shall see.