This week, we asked Steve Rattner – current Chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, and former Obama lead auto adviser and counselor to the Treasury Secretary — about the state of the American economy, Obamacare and for his thoughts on being called a “czar.”
1) People consistently refer to you as the former Obama car “czar.” Are you a fan [of it]?
Rattner: I hated it, in large part because I wasn’t the czar of anything. I was just another foot soldier trying to help during a very dark period. But my paternal grandfather, whose family fled the czar, would have been amused.
2) President Obama was open about the fact that the rollout of healthcare.gov was fumbled, but now more than 6 million people have signed up for Obamacare. What’s your assessment as to the health of the program, as things currently stand?
Rattner: Because of the start-up problems, Obamacare will fall short of the 7 million enrollees that were projected for the end of March. That’s not fatal, but what will be important will be the composition of those who enroll (enough young and healthy people to balance older Americans) and the level of enrollments in the future. There will be continued ups and downs but, in my view, Obamacare will, in due course, be considered as important a social program as Medicare or Social Security.
3) What’s your economic outlook for the country over the next year? Where does unemployment likely go? What about growth?
Rattner: We seem to be pretty well settled into a steady but regrettably slow recovery, with employment rising by about 175,000 a month and the economy expanding at around a 2 1/2 percent rate. Unemployment has been coming down, but largely because of people dropping out of the labor force, which is not a great recipe for prosperity.
What does [former] Mayor Bloomberg hope to do now that he isn’t running New York City? Where is his focus?
Rattner: I want to keep my job, so I’m not going to speak for him! But I read in the press that he is spending more time at his extraordinary company, Bloomberg LP, more time working on his philanthropy and social causes, and has taken his first vacation in 12 years.
5) Your best guess as to the Republican and Democratic nominees for president in 2016?
Rattner: Clinton and Bush, of course! (That is to say, Hillary and Jeb.)
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