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Obama’s Economic Team

By Robert Cowin
November 28, 2008
File under: Cabinet, Economy, Obama


As I wrote about earlier in the week, President-Elect Obama has named New York Fed Chairman, Tim Geithner, as Secretary of the Treasury, and former Clinton Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, as head of the National Economic Council.  These two men are extremely well respected in both the academic economic community as well as the business community.  Neither individual is untainted by the recent economic crisis (Summers as a champion for deregulation, and Geithner as a key decision maker for how $350 billion of the bailout has been spent).  But the fact remains that these are America’s brightest economic minds, and we should feel confident in their abilities.

President-Elect Obama named Christina Romer Director of his Council of Economic Advisors.  This is indeed a refreshing choice.  Romer is a Professor of Economics at UC Berkley, and an expert on the Great Depression and the recovery that followed.  The job of the Council of Economic Advisors is to …well, advise the President on economic policy.  It may be completely irrational on my part, but I derive some small comfort from the fact that the bug in the President’s ear will not be of the Wall Street variety but rather, an academic/ economist/ historian.  The study of economic history along with a creative, forward-thinking approach is key to getting us out of this economic mess.  Romer appears to be cut from this cloth.

Coming on board as the President’s Director of his Domestic Policy Council is Melody Barnes.  Barnes is the former Executive Vice President of Policy at the Center for American Progress (a think tank dedicated progressive domestic policy with a focus on economic and healthcare policy) and Chief Council for Senator Ted Kennedy.  Barnes’ new job in the Obama Administration will be to implement healthcare reform in a way that can advance the President’s economic recovery plan.  Indeed, this is an extremely challenging job, but it’s safe to say that she is eminently qualified for this position having worked intimately for “Mr. Healthcare” as well as her advocacy for working families.

President-Elect Obama appointed sacred cow and economic guru, Paul Volker, chair of his “Economic Recovery Advisory Board.”  One gets the feeling that Obama and Volker have a close relationship.  Volker was an early supporter of and advisor to Senator Obama, and he appears to have been at the forefront of helping to develop the President-Elect’s economic policy.  Volker’s record as an economic genius is unquestioned.  He is widely credited with helping to reign in the stagflation of the Carter era, and has twice served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  At 81, Volker’s vast experience should prove valuable in helping to mold America’s economic recovery policy.  Indeed, this temporary role seems to be a perfect fit for the ageless Volker.

It appears that the President-Elect is striking the perfect tone between experience and youthfulness; conventional economic thinking, and new creative approaches.  I wish Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman was in the mix somewhere, but all said, Obama has put together a top-notch economic team.

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