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Austan Goolsbee Reveals Advice America Gave

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, February 24 2011

Last week, it was Austan Goolsbee's turn to take a spin at Advise the Advisor:

And Tuesday in Cleveland, Goolsbee sat down to chew through some of the responses while at a "Winning the Future" small business forum in Cleveland:

Advise the Advisor, you'll remember, is an online experiment that the Obama White House kicked off with an open call by senior advisor David Plouffe earlier this month, wherein a White House official asks for help on some chewy topic -- for Plouffe, it was what's holding back innovation in the U.S., and for Goolsbee it was something similar: what it takes to grow a small business, Americans send in text comments via the web, and the administration member promises to digest the feedback. Wikileaks expressed itself a fan of the concept.

One thing you'll notice is that the White House is still wrestling with the idea that this is structured as a chance for the Obama administration to learn something from the public. Goolsbee, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, can sometimes slips back into default mode of treating the "advice" as a question that demands an answer. That's even more so the case with the special guest that pops up in at about minute 39 of the Cleveland session; President Obama seems unable to resist delivering mini-lectures, as if this were just another Q&A event.

According to Goolsbee in his response video, in the five days they kept his Advise the Advisor session open, about 1,500 comments poured in. He's processed the main themes and posted them on the White House blog. In his initial call for comments, Goolsbee tells the public that there's a decent chance their advice might go far. "I guarantee you that every submission that comes in, somebody is going to read it, and we are going to pay attention, " says Goolsbee. "We may generate White Boards out of it, we may generate policy."

In his initial call to engagement, Goolsbee adds a note that makes one curious just what sort of sort of things Plouffe found whispered -- or yelled -- in his ear in round one of Advise the Advisor. Dipping his head and looking sheepish, Goolsbee says, "Now, some of your comments in the past can be rather colorful. This is going to be a family program in Cleveland." He laughs. "So I encourage you to participate...responsibly."

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