The President’s Most Excruciating Decisions

By Carlos Watson –

Gene Sperling is soaking up the SoCal sun these days, but he still keeps one tanned finger on the pulse of the nation’s capital. It’d be hard not to. After all, Sperling helped craft economic policies that now affect the lives of most every American, from job-creation initiatives to China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. As former director of the National Economic Council — think of it as the Oval Office’s in-house think tank — Sperling was the trusted economic adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He was involved in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign too, and though these days he’s working for Airbnb and Pimco, Sperling is advising HRC once again. Could another Washington stint be in his future?

For now, the onetime ball boy for the University of Michigan basketball team is collaborating with a bipartisan group of wonks on the project Moneyball for Government, in which they’re trying to solve a particular problem: There’s no evidence whether $1 of $100 in government spending is being used wisely. Last week, Sperling, 56, spoke with OZY’s Carlos Watson about how big data can influence government, the hardest part of being president and how he met his wife through The West Wing — the show, that is. An edited version of their conversation follows.

Full Interview