In politically divided Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama may have found an appropriate choice as his new chief economic adviser, someone experienced in negotiating key agreements with political opponents.
Gene Sperling headed the National Economic Council in the 1990s, during the administration of the last Democratic chief executive, former President Bill Clinton. Now, Mr. Obama has named him to the same position.
In his earlier tenure offering advice to Mr. Clinton, the now 52-year-old Sperling helped broker a 1997 balanced budget deal with opposition Republicans. Three years later, he worked a deal with them to use tax credits as an incentive for investment in impoverished communities in the U.S.
His skills as a negotiator could play a key role again in working with Republicans, who this week assumed control of the U.S. House of Representatives and also have an increased presence in the Senate. Many of the political newcomers have vocally opposed Mr. Obama’s policies and vowed to sharply curtail government spending and the number of federal workers. The nation is also facing high unemployment, with nearly one in ten workers out of work.
Since ending his previous stint at the White House, Sperling has held a variety of jobs, often part-time. Among other positions, he has worked at a Washington think tank, as a columnist for the Bloomberg News service and as an adviser to Goldman Sachs, the prominent New York investment bank.
While at Goldman, he was paid $70,000 a month in 2008 to help create and run a venture to help teach entrepreneurial skills to women in developing countries. He also worked at the Council of Foreign Relations, where girls’ education around the world was one of his main interests.
Since Mr. Obama assumed office in early 2009, he has been a senior adviser to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, focusing on tax and budget advice.
Now, in his second tenure in his old role, he will have a chance to directly offer his economic advice to Mr. Obama.