Obama’s economic dream team

Al Jazeera examines the men and women whom Obama wants to shape US economic policy.

From left to right: Geithner, Romer, Summers and Barnes have
the task of rescuing the US economy [AFP]

Barack Obama, the United States president-elect, has unveiled the economic team he will take with him to the White House next January.

The team will be faced with the task of turning around a rapidly deteriorating US economy and the failing financial sector.

Timothy Geithner, nominated for treasury secretary

Timothy Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, was long considered a top contender for the post of treasury secretary.

Geithner, 47, is set to face some of the toughest economic problems the US has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, if his nomination is confirmed by congress.

“Tim Geithner is someone who had experience in dealing with economic crises as the assistant secretary of Treasury for international affairs in the ’90s,” David Axelrod, the incoming White House senior adviser, told Fox News on Sunday.

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“He’s intimately involved with the situation now in his role as president of New York Fed. By temperament and experience, he’s the right man to lead the treasury now.”

As head of the New York Fed, Geithner has served as vice-chairman of the US central bank’s policy setting committee and has been involved in the government’s response to the global financial crisis.

He also worked with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, and Henry Paulson, the current US treasury secretary, on a federal loan to JPMorgan Chase, which enabled the firm to take over struggling rival Bear Stearns.

As Paulson’s successor, Geithner would become the overseer of a $700bn financial bailout package, which has so far failed to head off fears of a long and painful recession.

But Geithner has faced criticism for being too close to Paulson and many of his policies, including the $700bn bailout of Wall Street firms.

He is also close to a number of Wall Street executives and has been criticised for relying too closely on their advice.

Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council

Summers has courted controversy
in the past [GALLO/GETTY]

Obama is expected to name Lawrence or “Larry” Summers, a treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, as director of the National Economic Council (NEC).

The NEC advises the president on matters relating to domestic and international economic policy.

Summers would co-ordinate a federal plan to tackle the economic crisis gripping the US, with the aim of creating 2.5m new jobs.

A graduate of both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, Summers spent several years as a professor of economics at Harvard – becoming president of the esteemed university in 2001.

He has considerable Washington experience – serving in the 1990s as undersecretary for international affairs and deputy treasury secretary under Bill Clinton before serving as treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001.

In addition he spent two years as chief economist of the World Bank from 1991 to 1993.

While working for the Clinton administration as treasury secretary, Summers helped create a support package for Mexico aimed at staving off that country’s 1995 financial crisis.

But Summers has courted controversy in the past.

In 2005 he was forced to resign from Harvard over controversial remarks he made in which he said that innate differences in abilities partially accounted for the fact that more men than women entered science and engineering courses, which sparked an outcry among women’s rights groups.

Christine Romer, head of Council of Economic Advisers

Obama has nominated Christine Romer as head of the three-member Council of Economic Advisers, which acts as a policy think-tank within the White House and produces an annual economic report for US Congress.

Romer, an economist and economic historian at the University of California, Berkeley, is a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s business cycle dating committee which determines if the US economy is in recession.

Along with her husband, David Romer, she has written widely on the history of the US economy, the causes of the Great Depression and the impact of fiscal policy.

Romer obtained her PhD at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985 and taught at Princeton University in New Jersey before moving to Berkeley, California in 1988, where she has been a professor since 1993.

The nomination must be confirmed by the US senate.

Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council

Barnes previously worked for senator
Edward Kennedy [GALLO/GETTY] 

Melody Barnes, named as director of the Domestic Policy Council, is currently co-director of the Agency Review Working Group for Obama’s transitional team, and served as senior domestic policy adviser to Obama throughout his campaign.

She received her law degree from the University of Michigan and her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She began her career as a lawyer with the prestigious New York-based Shearman & Sterling firm, and was executive vice-president for policy at the Centre for American Progress, a centre-left think-tank headed by John Podesta, a former chief of staff for Bill Clinton, the former US president and the co-chair of Obama’s transition team.

From December 1995 until March 2003, Barnes was chief counsel to Edward Kennedy, a senator for the state of Massachusetts, on the senate Judiciary Committee.

Official biographies say that as Kennedy’s chief counsel, she shaped civil rights, women’s health and reproductive rights, commercial law, and religious liberties laws, as well as executive branch and judicial appointments.

Source : Al Jazeera

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