Ex-Obama advisor Goolsbee wouldn't fill Cohn's shoes 'if it was the last job on Earth'

  • Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama's former economic advisor, said he wouldn't replace Gary Cohn even "if it was the last job on Earth."
  • The president's intention to slap tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum imports could potentially trigger "an escalating trade war if not an outright global recession," he warned.
  • The White House's string of recent departures is also a worrying development for policy making, he added.

U.S president Donald Trump asserted on Tuesday that "everybody wants to work in the White House." But outgoing National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn doesn't, and neither does Austan Goolsbee, Barack Obama's former economic advisor.

Speaking to CNBC on Wednesday, Goolsbee said he wouldn't take Cohn's position "if it was the last job on Earth."

The leading economist, who is currently a University of Chicago professor, cited disagreements with the administration's policy focus, and concern over recent departures of White House staffers.

The president's intention to slap tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum imports could potentially trigger "an escalating trade war if not an outright global recession," he warned.

Moreover, the administration's "unprecedented turnover of personnel" indicates that the White House "isn't a healthy environment," he continued.

If all the moderates leave, the only people left could be the president's own family members, or those who are really desperate for the job, Goolsbee warned. "That doesn't bode well for policy making," he said.

President Donald Trump
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President Donald Trump

Administration officials told CNBC that Cohn's resignation was "a huge victory" for advocates of protectionist nationalism in the administration, particularly White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro.

"Peter Navarro is a bomb-thrower and not a conventional economist in the slightest way," Goolsbee warned. A well-known China hawk, Navarro "has called for dramatically more protectionism" that goes well beyond tariffs, Goolsbee added.

Conservative economist and CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow, rumored to be a potential replacement to Cohn, could offer balance to the White House, according to Goolsbee.

"Larry Kudlow is an old friend of mine and though I disagree with him on many issues, he's 100 percent right on this issue of trade, and I hope the president will call and listen to someone like Larry on that issue."