White House Economic Adviser: Job creation "paramount issue"

Austan Goolsbee in an interview with CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged." CBS

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said in a CBSNews.com interview on Monday that job creation was "the paramount issue" in the Obama administration - but that as the economy improved, the White House was trying to "find a way to get the government out of its expanded role" in the economy.

Goolsbee, in an interview with CBS News political analyst John Dickerson at the White House, previewed President Obama's town hall with CBS News this week (which airs on "The Early Show" on Thursday morning), and said Mr. Obama was eager to "communicate to the American people all the things he's doing" to get the U.S. economy "turned around and fully recovering."

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"He's also wanting to hear from ordinary citizens and small business owners about where they're hurting, what are their concerns, what ideas they have so we can keep pushing on this agenda," Goolsbee told Dickerson.

Echoing sentiments Mr. Obama has espoused in previous speeches, Goolsbee emphasized the White House's belief that growing the economy is about more than simply slashing its budget.

"We've gotta live within our means, but... that doesn't mean we can afford to cut the education, the research and development and innovation, the investment stuff that we need to grow," Goolsbee said.

He also noted that, despite recent economic hardships - namely, skyrocketing gas prices - the economy had seen major improvements in the last year, and that the government could begin to safely move out of "rescue" mode.

"You want the private sector to be the source of growth because that's where the sustainable job creation is," he said. "As you move out of the rescue phase into transition to growth, the government isn't the only - and not even the main - way that you want to have the engine getting revved up."

Of the debate over raising the debt ceiling, Goolsbee said there was no room to "play around."

"I don't think the market thinks that were going to get to the point where we default on our obligations," he said.

But he noted that current negotiations included a discussion about the fact that "we need to live within our means."

"I think that should be a separate discussion from whether we're going to pay our bills that we've already incurred," Goolsbee argued. "It's not a game; we shouldn't play around with the full faith and credit of the U.S.

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