Obama Said to Pick Jason Furman as Next Top Economic Adviser

President Barack Obama plans to nominate Jason Furman, a Harvard-trained economist who’s also well-schooled in White House staff rivalries, to replace Alan Krueger as the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Krueger plans to return to Princeton University to his position as Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs in time for the next school year, the White House announced today. In a statement, Obama called Krueger “one of my most trusted advisers on economic policy and a great friend.”

Installing Furman at the CEA may signal a revitalized role for the office, which has taken a back seat to the National Economic Council in driving policy inside the White House, according to the people, who requested anonymity because the decision hasn’t been made final.

Furman has been the principal deputy on the National Economic Council, which coordinates economic advice for the president, since January 2009. The CEA makes recommendations to the president on economic matters and briefs him on data. Its chairman is a member of the Cabinet, and the nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

Neither Krueger nor Furman responded to requests for comment. Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Policy Understanding

“Jason is one of those rare individuals who combines a top economic mind with a deep understanding of the policy process and a true sensitivity to the real world implications of policy decisions,” said Lee Sachs, who served as counselor to former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “He would be an excellent choice to head the CEA.”

Among the CEA chairman’s duties is briefing the president on economic data. That includes the monthly jobs report, which the chairman typically delivers in person to Obama on the night before the data’s official release, which usually happens on the first Friday of the month.

Furman may reprise a role he played in 2009 in helping the president select a replacement for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose term expires at the end of January 2014.

In 2009, when Obama decided to reappoint Bernanke, Furman represented the NEC because the then-chairman, Larry Summers, was also being considered for the position.

Furman’s Background

Furman, 42, received his Ph.D from Harvard in economics in 2003. When he left the Brookings Institution in the summer of 2008 to join the Obama campaign, the move was criticized by labor unions, who questioned his advocacy for free trade and his ties to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Since joining the administration, Furman has often sided with advisers who wanted the president to push for more fiscal stimulus to promote job creation. Internally, he was a proponent for the “cash for clunkers” program to promote automobile sales as well as a proposal, known as “cash for caulkers,” to give tax credits to help homeowners weatherize their houses.

A nomination of Furman would mark the first time Obama has drawn from the Washington world of policy-research institutions instead of a university’s economic department or its business school to lead the three-member council.

The president’s first CEA chief, Christina Romer, returned to the University of California at Berkeley in 2010. His second chairman, Austan Goolsbee, returned to his position at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. Krueger is a tenured professor at Princeton.

Adviser’s Role

In Obama’s second term, Furman has played a public role in warning about the impact of the $1.2 trillion in automatic budget gets that began to go into effect March 1.

The cuts “will have macroeconomic consequences, cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and jobs throughout the private sector,” Furman said a White House briefing on Feb. 25.

The job’s salary of $191,300 a year will supplement income Furman receives from the Jason Furman Trust, which has $5 million to $25 million in assets, according to Furman’s 2009 financial disclosure reports. Furman listed another account in the $5 million to $25 million range on his disclosure.

The grandson of Morris Furman, a New York City real-estate developer, Furman went to Dalton, a private high school in New York City, before receiving his B.A. at Harvard in 1992.

In the 2004 presidential campaign he worked for retired General Wesley Clark and then-senator John Kerry, who became the Democratic Party’s nominee to challenge President George W. Bush.