Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Economic Team for “Bold, Clear, Decisive Steps”

Every day this week, President-elect Barack Obama has introduced new members of his economic team. Today it was Paul Volcker and Austan Goolsbee, who will lead the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Asked if the flurry of public activity was a response to the current Administration's handling of the current crisis, President-elect Obama said that his focus on the economy was about something much broader.

"No, I think what it speaks to is the frustration of eight years in which middle class wages have gone down, or in real terms their family incomes have been reduced," he said. "It expresses frustration about our inability to tackle some of the long term problems that we've been facing and have been talking about for decades, whether it's health care, energy, an education system that's been slipping behind in critical areas like math or science. And most of all, I think frustration with the incapacity of Washington to take bold, clear, decisive steps to deal with our economic problems."

For years President-elect Obama has fought not only for an overhaul of the regulations that govern Wall Street -- as his economic agenda states, "Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that our deep systemic financial market crisis requires a systemic response" -- but for bold action in nearly every area of public policy.

The members of the economic team he announced this week clearly reflect these key principles. Each has the experience, ability, and will to enact bold change. Below we've put together some recent statements from each member of the team to give you an idea of where they're coming from on these key issues.

Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary-designate:
"Apart from the mix of incentives and constraints set by regulatory policy, the structure of the regulatory system in the United States needs substantial reform. Our current system has evolved into a confusing mix of diffused accountability, regulatory competition, an enormously complex web of rules that create perverse incentives and leave huge opportunities for arbitrage and evasion, and creates the risk of large gaps in our knowledge and authority. This crisis gives us the opportunity to bring about fundamental change in the direction of a more streamlined and consolidated system with more clarity around responsibility for the prudential safeguards in the system."
--Speech, 6/9/08, link

Larry Summers, Director-designate of the National Economic Council:
"I think the defining issue of our time is: Does the economic, social and political system work for the middle class?... Because the system’s viability, its staying power and its health depend on how well it works for the middle class."
--New York Times, 6/10/07, link

Christina Romer, Director-designate of the President's Council of Economic Advisors:
"Poverty is arguably the most pressing economic problem of our time. And because rising inequality, for a given level of income, leads to greater poverty, the distribution of income is also a central concern."
--Economic Review, 1/1/99, link

Melody C. Barnes, Director-designate of the Domestic Policy Council:
"To restore fairness to our system, I will embark on a multi-faceted approach including increasing our investment in public education, promoting genuine health care reform, and backing a higher minimum wage... Our economic security, our national security, our health, and the future of the global environment are fundamentally linked to the choices we make about energy."
--"What a Progressive President Might Say," Op-ed, Washington Post, 1/22/07, link

Peter Orszag, Director-designate of the White House Office of Management and Budget:
"While I’m on the topic of health care, I’d like to make a point related to the current turmoil in financial markets. Many observers have noted that addressing the problems in financial markets and the risks to the economy may displace health care reform on the policy agenda… Although it may not seem immediately relevant given our current difficulties, it will be crucial to address the nation's looming fiscal gap -- which is driven primarily by rising health care costs -- as the economy eventually recovers from this current downturn."
--CBO Director's Blog, 10/13/08, link

Paul Volcker, Chair of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board:
"The new system seemed to work effectively in fair financial weather, with great confidence in its efficiency and presumed benefits. However, I believe there is no escape from the conclusion that, faced with the kind of recurrent strains and pressures typical of free financial markets, the new system has failed the test of maintaining reasonable stability and fluidity... The critical pressures on our financial markets are not unique, nor can an approach to dealing with those pressures be successful in isolation. We have a lot upon which to build, and we should not miss the opportunity to extend the areas of cooperation."
--Testimony to the Joint Economic Committee, 5/14/08, link

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