Obama To Announce Economic Team President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce the top players on his economic team Monday. Among them is Tim Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, as Treasury secretary. David Wessel, economics editor of The Wall Street Journal, says that pick would indicate that Obama doesn't want to abruptly change the direction of the bailout.
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Obama To Announce Economic Team

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Obama To Announce Economic Team

Obama To Announce Economic Team

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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep. We're getting a better idea of the people that President-elect Barack Obama is choosing for his economic team. So this morning, we'll learn more from a reporter who has covered three of them. David Wessel is economics editor of The Wall Street Journal and a regular guest on this program. David, good morning.

Mr. DAVID WESSEL (Economics Editor, The Wall Street Journal): Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Let's start with the choice for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who is not deeply familiar to many Americans, but deeply familiar in the financial world.

Mr. WESSEL: That's right. Geithner is currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He's kind of been the field marshal for the Fed and the Treasury on the frontlines as Wall Street has crumbled. He has a very interesting background. He's never worked in business. He was - he worked at the Treasury for 12 years, grew up in Asia and Africa. His father was a development specialist. So he's got quite a bit of international experience, in addition to this Wall Street experience. And he's very much in the "No Drama Obama" mode, a guy who works well with very difficult people.

INSKEEP: Does the fact that he's not a professional economist suggest something about his outlook on the world?

Mr. WESSEL: I think he's very flexible ideologically. He was involved in a lot of crisis management during the Asian financial crisis in the '90s. He's not wedded to a particular view. Very pragmatic I'd say.

INSKEEP: And David, when you say that he's been sort of the field marshal for the financial bailout in the last few months, does his selection as Treasury secretary suggest that President-elect Obama essentially approves of what's been done so far?

Mr. WESSEL: That's a good question. It certainly gives that impression. I don't think so. I think that we'll learn as things evolve that Geithner has - would have liked to have done some things differently than, say, Hank Paulson, the Treasury secretary. And I think that they have learned from some of their mistakes. But it does suggest that President-elect Obama would rather have some continuity for the sake of making the situation better than some kind of abrupt change in direction.

INSKEEP: We're talking with The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel about choices for the economic team of President-elect Barack Obama. And let's move on to another name, David Wessel. Larry Summers, who was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, is now set to be White House economic policy coordinator. Is that a step up?

Mr. WESSEL: Well, it's probably a step up in the sense that he will be the architect of President-elect Obama's response to this very frightening financial and economic crisis. It may not rank high in the hierarchy of the Constitution and stuff like that, but it's pretty clear he'll be central to the operation, very close to the president. He'll be the thinker, the brains of the operation. And Geithner is likely to be more the implementer.

INSKEEP: And does that suggest another kind of continuity? Here's a guy from the Clinton administration.

Mr. WESSEL: Well, they are all from the Clinton administration. It turns out that President-elect Obama has looked to a lot of the veterans in the last administration to help him out here. I think they represent one wing of the Clinton administration though, a very centrist, pragmatic economic policy not wedded to the more liberal, left, labor wing in the party.

INSKEEP: Does another appointment suggest something about Obama's approach, David Wessel? Because he reached into Congress, to the Congressional Budget Office director, Peter Orszag, and wants him to be the White House budget director.

Mr. WESSEL: Right. I think that that's a choice of a guy who is a very strong technocrat, someone who worked in the Clinton White House, again, went to the Brookings Institution, ran a think tank that some of the Democrats set up. He knows the budget well. He has some experience now working with Congress. And he's very concerned about fiscal discipline and health care costs in the long run. So I think it's an important signal that while they fight the current crisis, this seems to me a group of people who will be quite concerned about the long-term fiscal position of the U.S. as well.

INSKEEP: And are these people who will have credibility when they go to Congress and say we need these tough decisions made?

Mr. WESSEL: I think so. I think all three of these men have been around Congress during this crisis and have fairly high stature among the Democrats as people who sort of know what to do.

INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.

Mr. WESSEL: A pleasure.

INSKEEP: David Wessel is economics editor of The Wall Street Journal.

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