ICYMI: Leading Experts Highlight Key Lessons, Value of Public Investment at “Roaring Out of Recession” Virtual Event

September 14, 2023

ICYMI: Leading Experts Highlight Key Lessons, Value of Public Investment at “Roaring Out of Recession” Virtual Event

WH CEA Member Heather Boushey: “The big lesson learned is that unemployment in the wake of recession is a choice”


As the House returns amid a heated appropriations fight, leading economists and experts made the case Monday that the rapid and inclusive economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 recession has been powered by people-centered public investment. The speakers highlighted how this recovery stands in stark contrast to the slow, stagnant, and unequal recovery period following the Great Recession.

Select quotes from the webinar are below and you can find a recording here and slides by White House CEA Member Heather Boushey here.


Heather Boushey, Council of Economic Advisers Member and Chief Economist to the Investing in America Cabinet, Executive Office of the President:

“The big lesson learned is that unemployment in the wake of recession is a choice.”

“Relative to any recovery going back to the early 1990s, we have recovered faster than the early 90s, the early 2000s, and the Great Recession…that is a historic accomplishment.”

“We’ve created an economy so strong that it’s pulling people in. That is exactly what you want to see in an economic recovery…That is laying the foundation for not just short-term growth, but for medium and long-term growth.”

Indivar Dutta-Gupta, President and Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Policy:

“The choices you make in these moments have durable consequences. There’s a misperception at times that we’re just choosing between levels of human suffering…the fact is you’re making choices that will shape the future trajectory of our economy.”

“In any crisis, in any downturn, you’re making decisions that will affect us five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road.”

“The tight labor market has gotten us to historic lows in unemployment but it doesn’t give us the long-term structural changes we need.”

Angela Hanks, Chief of Programs, Demos:

“None of these investments could have happened in 2020 and beyond if the conventional wisdom hadn’t shifted after the Great Recession…this is not just the economy that changed, but a set of actors made a different set of decisions.”

“They created an entirely new program for people who had previously not been eligible for unemployment insurance. In thinking about the longer-term structural change that’s needed, we have a good road map of things we did temporarily and now we need to go back and do them for real.”

“Workers are getting higher wages, we saw a hot labor summer, and all those things are great, they help workers build and sustain power…but once unemployment ticks up, that progress could potentially vanish.”

Rakeen Mabud, Chief Economist and Managing Director of Policy and Research, Groundwork Collaborative:

“The approach that the administration took in this recessionary period and recovery is a sea change. It is truly a flip of the script to what we’ve seen before.”

“We have a lot of unfinished business. We haven’t yet really addressed some of the core drivers of what has been causing a cost of living crisis in this country for decades.”

“It’s important to pair these big public investments with a critical analysis of the power dynamics in our economy.”

JW Mason, Associate Professor of Economics, John Jay College and Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute:

“Monetary policy is a lot weaker than we thought and ‘big fiscal’ gets the job done. I hope one of the takeaways we see here is that the job of macroeconomic management really cannot be left to the Fed.”

“We need to close that unemployment door. It’s not acceptable to say that workers have too much power, so the unemployment rate should go up. You need to find other tools.”

“We now know that unemployment and recession is a policy choice…If we can keep saying that and get that into the consciousness so this is not like the weather. It’s not just something that happens. It’s something that is perfectly preventable, and therefore something that we have a collective responsibility to prevent.”

Kitty Richards, Acting Executive Director, Groundwork Collaborative:

“How did we get here? The answer is big public investments from the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.”

“These investments not only helped us achieve a faster and more equitable economy over the short term but set us up for a more resilient economy over the long term.”

“The recovery we’re in the midst of right now stands in stark contrast to the painful and protracted recovery following the Great Recession.”