President-elect Barack Obama has not even entered the office to which he has been elected, but already, he is calling in the big guns in hopes of finding that miracle cure for whatever it is that’s ailing the US economy.
Most, if not all, leading players of Obama’s new economic team, who will be largely responsible for the direction the economy will be taking from hereon, are already on board. Let’s take a closer look at these economic bigwigs:
Timothy F. Geithner – Treasury Secretary
Having served as the New York Federal Reserve president since 2003, Geithner has been a key player in trying to resolve this economic crisis, working closely with current Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.
He can also be credited as having been one of those behind the more controversial events related to the recession: the move to arrange bailouts for Bear Stearns, the American International Group, and Citigroup, and the failed attempt to rescue Lehman Brothers.
Among the more notable positions that he once held were as Treasury Undersecretary under Lawrence Summers towards the end of the Clinton Administration, and as Director for IMF’s policy development and review department.
Lawrence H. Summers – Director of the National Economic Council
The National Economic Council which is responsible for formulating, coordinating and implementing the president’s economic policies across the government agencies involved has its work definitely cut out for it. The one heading it therefore would have to be one tough cookie but Summers is more than up for the job.
True, he may have been a controversial figure in the past with his unpopular remarks that irked women, environmentalists and civil rights activists, but a neophyte in economics he is not.
The 53-year old Summers is a known academic economist, having served as Chief Economist for the World Bank from 1991 to 1993, Secretary of Treasury from 1999 to part of 2001, and as Harvard president from 2001 to June 2006.
Obama has lauded him as “one of the great economic minds of our times.”
Christina D. Romer – Chief of the White House Council of Economic Advisers
Romer’s appointment to this position is said to be one the more enlightened decisions that Obama has come up with so far. Although she has not been a key figure in any economic crisis or government agency as yet, this does not make her any less of an economic expert and a reliable person to turn to in these troubling times.
Having been an economics professor of the University of California at Berkeley since 1988, Romer has closely studied the causes of the Great Depression in the 1930’s and how the US was able to overcome it.
Her scholarly view of the times and a perspective that is fundamentally based on years of research work would therefore serve as a whiff of fresh air to the economic team in leading the country out of the current crisis.
Melody Barnes – Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council
Before joining Obama’s presidential campaign in June and serving on the advisory board of the presidential transition team, Barnes was previously Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP), and led the CAP’s Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative.
Formerly chief counsel for Sen. Edward Kennedy for the Senate Judiciary Committee, she has been a campaigner for progressive policies in the Democratic Party. As head of the Domestic Policy Council, Barnes will focus on economic policy matters including education, health care, energy, and Social Security.
The Creation of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board
Aside from naming these individuals to work hand in hand with him in reforming the economy, Obama has also revealed the formation of a new Economic Recovery Advisory Board that is hoped to provide a fresh outlook on economic policymaking which he feels has become too inward-looking in Washington. Leading this board are:
Paul Volcker – Chairman
Paul Volcker’s stint in US economics and public service has been long and distinguished. He started in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York City in 1952, joined the Treasury Department in the 1960s, later on rising to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve for two US presidents – Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in the 1970s and 1980s.
His career in the finance industry though is not only limited to government positions but took off in the private sector as well. He was previously connected with Chase Manhattan Bank first as financial director in 1957, then as vice-president and director for planning in 1965. After his stint in the Federal Reserve for the second time in 1987, Volcker served as chairman of J. Rothschild, Wolfensohn & Co., a prominent investment firm in New York.
He endorsed Barack Obama for president in January 2008, later on becoming his economic adviser during the campaign, and now joining the President-Elect’s elite economic team.
Austan Goolsbee – Chief Economist and Staff Director
Currently the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Goolsbee has been on the president-elect’s economic advisory team since Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign.
Goolsbee’s rising star as an economist is substantially backed by a stellar academic background. He earned his B.A. (economics) at Yale University, graduating summa cum laude in 1991, got his M.A. (economics) at the same university in the same year, and later on his Ph.D. (economics) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995.
Agents for change?
In the wake of the nomination and/or appointment of these people who will hopefully be steering the country out of the recession, critics and supporters alike had differing views with respect to the President-Elect’s choices.
Many are of the opinion that Obama had tapped too safe and traditional personalities, a big letdown from the promised change that had propelled him to victory in the first place. Others, on the other hand, feel that the appointment of seasoned economists and political movers is just what the country needs at these times.
So while the stage has just been set, and the lead stars briefed on the respective roles they will be playing, it is much too soon to tell if the production will be a resounding success.
With the way things are going with this country, we can only hope so.