Hey Reddit, I'm the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to President Obama for Economic Policy. I've been in the West Wing for a while now, having served on the National Economic Council for more than 10 years, starting in 1993 under President Clinton. Fun fact: I also consulted for the TV show "The West Wing." Really hoping you all are kinder than the folks at LemonLyman. As Josh would say, I applaud your interest in government... so ask me anything.

I'll be answering your questions from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT. I'd like to talk about the President's plan to reduce the deficit (which you can check out here: http://wh.gov/presidentsplan), but I'll be taking other questions too.

Proof: http://at.wh.gov/iRX2o

Edit: Great to be here, we're getting started now.

Edit 2: Hey everyone. Typing out these responses is taking a little longer than I planned and I appreciate everyone's patience. I'm going to stick around a bit longer than I had originally scheduled so I can keep working through these.

Edit 3: This has been great. You know, there wasn't Reddit during the Clinton Administration (we used to even fax back then!)

I wish I could stay longer. Got to run to a meeting on the economic impact of immigration reform. (Reply if there's anything that you'd like to share on this). And while we have to fix our budget challenges, we have to keep making progress immigration reform and universal pre-k — which are key to both our values and long-term economic growth. Thanks.

Comments: 1607 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

Gedz394 karma

Gene. Australia is far better managed than the US economically. Why don't you do as Australia did 20+ years ago and stop subsidizing Agriculture? (Just about everything else as well) It costs you $50 billion a year and ruins the competitiveness of US farmers.

GeneSperling118 karma

The President does in fact have a proposal to reduce agriculture subsidies in his FY2013 budget, and he proposed it again in his offer to Speaker Boehner. It would save $30 billion as part of his overall, balanced plan to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion.

Budget: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/budget.pdf

President's offer to Speaker Boehner: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/21/balanced-plan-avert-sequester-and-reduce-deficit-balanced-way

sptw103 karma

These questions all get at the premise behind the plan: that the deficit needs to be reduced.

--With lending rates at such lows, why does the Administration believe it is even necessary to reduce the deficit at this point? Instead, why not use cheap deficit spending to make public investments?

--How did the Administration choose the magnitude of the deficit reduction sought in this plan? In particular, how do you balance the loss of public sector investments and jobs that will cost more in the long run with short term budgetary gains?

GeneSperling43 karma

These are not either or questions for us. A sound economic plan has to do three things at once: give more momentum to our recovery in the short-term, achieve long-term fiscal discipline in a balanced way and ensure that we still make room for the investments in our future -- children, education, infrastructure and research. It is having a strategy that pursues all three of those goals that hits the fiscal sweet spot. A smart plan, therefore can in the same overall package accelerate critical job creating investments like attacking deferred maintenance in our infrastructure and schools, while also putting in place tax and sensible entitlement reform that both contribute to deficit reduction while ensuring we are not crowding out critical investments in our competitiveness.

We chose the amount of long-term deficit reduction to ensure that our debt and deficits were falling as a percentage of our economy -- an important metric for ensuring confidence in whether the United States is still the best place to make long-term investments. We have already achieved $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction and believe achieving $1.5 trillion-$1.8 trillion more in a balanced way is the best way to hit that target. But I want to stress, the ultimate goal for economic policy is not hitting a specific metric, but whether the culmination of your policies lead to a stronger, more secure, and more inclusive middle class where everyone can rise, and where even children born into the poorest circumstances have a chance to reach their potential and where dignified work and retirement is promoted. That is why it makes sense and is consistent to have an economic plan that at the same time seeks to achieve enough deficits to see our debt falling as a percentage of our economy, while still finding additional savings to do something as smart and consistent with our values as promoting quality pre-school for every child, when we know that furthers our values and our future workforce.

charliedouglas12330 karma

Having just finished The West Wing I'd like to say thank you for helping to create one of the best programmes I've ever seen!

A couple of questions for you:

1) Just how realistic is the show compared to your day-to-day life working in The White House?

2) I personally think the NHS is one of the best things about the UK (my home country). Do you think that more should be done to bring a nationalised health service to the US, even at a cost that will increase the deficit again?

GeneSperling52 karma

On "The West Wing" -- I always have answered that it is pretty realistic, except that we are not as funny, don't walk as fast and most of us are not as good looking. The West Wing show aimed for reality, except that they often have to condense a 9 month process to 60 minutes. When President Obama asked me how life in the first six months of his administration during the financial crisis compared to normal times -- I gave the same reply: that we were being forced to do 9 months of policy work in what seemed like 60 minutes.

What I liked most about The West Wing -- and what was most realistic to me -- was that instead of portraying people in Washington as either cynical or naive, our boss, Aaron Sorkin did a great job at portraying serious and deeply committed and well-intentioned people trying to do good things in what is a very difficult, complex and political environment. That is how I think most of us -- on both sides of the aisle -- see our efforts. The West Wing captured that and I think it has inspired many young people to go into public service.

Finally, for me the best thing about 4 years of consulting and part-time writing for the West Wing is that it is how I met my wife Allison Abner. She was a writer on the show, and I met her the first day in my interview.

Ok.. that was a fun one, now back to the real West Wing issues.....

Echoey24 karma

Today, you refered to Chained CPI as "Correcting the CPI". Is there any difference? And can you explain your position on thie further?

GeneSperling17 karma

The cost of living question relates to how the government measures inflation. Today, we use a measure of inflation called the “CPI” or consumer price index. An alternative would be to switch to what is known as the superlative or “chained” CPI. The superlative CPI makes two technical corrections to the standard CPI: it accounts for consumers’ ability to substitute between goods in response to changes in relative prices and accounts for biases arising from small samples. Most experts agree that the Superlative CPI provides a more accurate measure of the average change in the cost of living than the standard CPI.

The President would prefer to have this adjustment in the context of a larger Social Security reform, but he has said to Speaker Boehner that if it is part of a larger agreement that would include tax reform that would raise revenue by cutting loopholes and expenditures from the most well off, that he would be willing to agree to it because in divided government, if we’re going to make progress, we have to be willing to compromise. One important note: any agreement to make this change to the CPI must include a dedication of a portion of the savings to protections for low-income Americans, certain veterans, and older Social Security beneficiaries. Our current offer which reduces the deficit by $230 billion over the next 10 years includes those protections.