Interview: Christina Romer

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Byline: Gary Rivlin

Obama's former top economic adviser talks about the desperate job market--and why she's glad she's out of Washington.

Your area of expertise is the Great Depression. Do you see parallels between today and the 1930s?

I do. Living through the recent crisis, I can see that when policymakers have to take extraordinary actions that are often unpopular, there's a tremendous desire to get back to business as usual. But the reality is that unemployment is still 8.8 percent and the economy remains in desperate need of support.

You must not be much fun at cocktail parties.

I don't get invited to many. Maybe there's a reason.

The talk in Washington these days is around deficit reduction. Is that a mistake, given unemployment? The issue isn't the current deficit, which is mainly due to the recession; it's the truly horrible deficit problem we'll have 20 or 25 years out if we don't deal with the projected rises in entitlement spending. The economy is sick right now and you need to make sensible investments to get people back to work.

One of the greatest disappointments among the president's base is that the administration hasn't done more to help those facing foreclosure. …