Five key spaces in President-elect Obama's economic team were filled last weekend, ending speculation (financial and otherwise) about some of the faces he will see in the Roosevelt Room and in the hallways of the West Wing. But who are these people, and what exactly are their jobs?
- Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: The successor to Hank Paulson will draw on his experience from the NY Fed (or, depending on your priorities, the Cape Cod beach). Known for his cool demeanor, he came to the Fed from the IMF and the Treasury's International Affairs division —- but not, as commentators have noted, Wall Street (current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) or academia (Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke). He will inherit a vastly expanded portfolio of responsibilities, including the overseeing Neel Kashkari's disbursement of TARP funding at the newly-created Office of Financial Stability. He will need to work closely with Bernanke to implement new regulatory initiatives within the network of federal overseers under their collective bailiwick — perhaps they can bond over pickupbasketball?
- Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson: The former Secretary of Energy and current governor of New Mexico is a handshake marathoner and erstwhile pitcher. Department of Commerce is another cog in the federal business-promotion and job-creation machinery. He will supervise the Economic Development Administration, which provides grants to distressed communities, and the International Trade Administration, which has been working to negotiate a new round of agreements to protect American goods on the global markets. However, as the supervisor of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, responsible for tracking production and consumption, he will likely be the bearer of bad news, at least in the short term.
- Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers: The Councilcoordinates economic policies between the federal departments, making sure that the actions of one do not contravene those of another. The director acts as the president's representative when planning agendas and providing broad policy-level guidance. The Financial Times columnist and former Treasury Secretary will be Obama's idea generator. As the New York Times puts it diplomatically, Summers is "Known equally for his brilliance and his blunt manner." Over the past two years, he has been a sort of shadow economic minister, criticizing Bush administration actions while advancing a nuanced view on the role of regulation.
- Director of the Council on Economic Advisers Christina Romer: ThisCouncil acts as the president's own think tank, analyzing trends and making policy recommendations from a macroeconomic perspective. The widely respected Romer comes to Washington from UC-Berkeley, where she wrote extensively on federal responses to macroeconomic crises. Interestingly, she has been critical of both the tax increases on higher income brackets that Obama proposes and the conservative belief that tax cuts will lead to reductions in government spending.
- Director of the Office of Management & Budget Peter Orszag: The runner and country music enthusiast will be responsible for managing the federal budget and will spearhead the administration of the economic stimulus package that President-elect Obama has pledged. Liberal commentators worry that he will reduce Social Security benefits. Like Geithner and Summers, he is a disciple of Robert Rubin, which may haunt him as his mentor is blasted for both the policies he implemented as Treasury secretary and the leadership he has provided at Citigroup in the past year.
Obama has yet to announce his pick for the Secretary of Labor, who will coordinate benefits for the swelling ranks of the unemployed and the Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, who will be responsible for determining a long-term solution for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are currently in the limbo of government conservatorship.
The holders of other key positions will keep their jobs: