Exclusive: Summers and other stimulus naysayers 'ignoring reality' – top Biden economist Boushey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top White House economist on Friday said the latest jobs report underscored how important it is to keep paying enhanced unemployment benefits, and the need for a $1.9 trillion stimulus package being considered in Congress.
Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, rejected concerns raised by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and others that the scale of the plan proposed by President Joe Biden risked driving up inflation.
“That argument ignores the reality of what today’s jobs numbers show, which is that… we’re seeing an economy that has been stalling,” Boushey said.
“The idea that we should pare back now, out of a future fear that maybe we might possibly do too much, just doesn’t seem consistent with the economic evidence we have in front of us,” she said. “The cost of inaction far outweighs the costs of perhaps doing a little bit too much.”
U.S. employment growth rebounded moderately in January but job losses in December were deeper than initially thought.
“Unemployment benefits are one of the first lines of defense in any recession,” Boushey said. “So this is absolutely imperative, and it really is imperative that benefits remain on for as long as workers need them.”
Boushey also stressed Biden’s commitment to raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25, an increase she said would be phased in to avoid a shock to the economy.
“This is an issue that really resonates with people because people believe… everyone deserves a fair day’s pay,” she said. “So, and, and I also just want to stress that this is something that the President is very much committed to – increasing wages for those at the bottom end of the labor market.”
Boushey, who has previously studied how family-friendly policies can support growth, also stressed the need to reopen schools and childcare centers safely.
“Getting schools open is one of the most important pieces,” she said. “But then we need to make sure that childcare centers can open and open safely and that that’s safe both for the workers who are mostly women workers, as well as for the families that need that care.”
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