early and often

The Economic Team That Will Save America!

Isenberg’s hair is full of secrets.

Standing behind President-elect Obama yesterday were not simply the most recent appointments to the incoming administration. As the GDP shrinks and jobs disappear and the federal government continues to spend billions upon billions of dollars on things that we grasp as important but don’t really understand, these men and women represent our last, best hope for saving the economy and, therefore, America. Timothy Geithner as secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers as director of the National Economic Council, Christina Romer as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Melody Barnes as director of the Domestic Policy Council — the weight of the world is on their shoulders. Luckily, they’re by and large being lauded as a team of experienced, pragmatic, capable individuals, by both the left and the right.

• The Times editorial board says that while “obviously” both Geithner and Summers are “men of talent,” the most important question is “whether they have learned from their mistakes, and if so, what.” If they haven’t, then “there is little hope that they can provide the sound judgment and leadership that the country needs to dig out of this desperate mess.” Obama must be sure to “challenge and question his advisers’ recommendations and decisions,” unlike President Bush. [NYT]

• Ezra Klein notes that while it feels like this economic team is clearly more competent that Bush’s appointees, it’s actually true that “the Bush administration started out with a fairly deep bench.” It may ultimately come down to the culture of the administration, and whether dissent is either silenced or encouraged. [American Prospect]

E.J. Dionne Jr. calls Obama’s appointments of Geithner and Summers his “single biggest post-election victory.” Yesterday’s news conference showed that Washington will have to get used to a president who is both progressive and pragmatic. [WP]

• Megan McArdle doesn’t like Geithner for Treasury secretary because he’s too good as the head of the New York Fed. There’s a “convincing case that the power vacuum at the New York Fed that followed the death of Benjamin Strong in 1928 substantially impaired the response to the emerging crisis.” [Atlantic]

• Rich Lowry is thankful that “Obama’s airy rhetoric about a new kind of politics was more a pitch for impressionable new voters than a description of his governing style,” as proven by the “ruthless pragmatism” he’s used in “staff[ing] up with former Clintonites.” [NYP]

• Justin Fox thinks it’s clear from Obama’s Geithner and Summers picks that “[h]e knows we’re in a serious economic crisis, and he wants people who know what they’re doing and can get stuff done, quickly.” Romer is also “a spectacular pick,” demonstrating “the Obama transition team’s skill at assembling a diverse administration without resorting to the obvious stretches that characterized the Clinton era,” although those applauding her for her tax-cutting bona fides may be “overstating her likely influence.” [Curious Capitalist/Time]

• Ross Douthat points out that while Christina Romer is the most obscure of yesterday’s economic-team announcements, she’s also “the one who should give Americans the most hope that Obama won’t be significantly hiking their taxes any time soon.” [Atlantic]

• James Pethokoukis also finds the selection of Romer “interesting,” because she authored a paper with her husband which basically concluded, “Cutting taxes good. Raising taxes bad.” [Capital Commerce/U.S. News]

• Lawrence Kudlow concurs that Obama’s “new economic cabinet appointments strongly suggest there will be no tax hikes next year.” The markets, in fact, may already be sensing “a little pro-growth good news in the Obama policy mix.” The entire team, not just Romer, is “right of center,” “market-oriented,” and “pro-free-trade.” [Town Hall]

• John B. Judis, however, contends that Romer has misread history — how we got out of the Great Depression, for example — and may be advocating for “monetary rather than fiscal expansion as the solution” to our current crisis. This philosophy may “oppose the kind of massive public investments that Obama now seems to be considering” and encourage “a strategy that has so far proved ineffective.” [New Republic]

• Kevin Drum doesn’t understand the Romer paper, but notes one of her conclusions is that “tax increases designed to reduce an inherited deficit have a positive impact on economic growth.” [Mother Jones]

• John J. Miller gripes that Obama’s economic team “does not yet include a U.S. Trade Representative,” demonstrating that “expanding foreign markets for American products isn’t part of the game plan.” [Corner/National Review]

The Economic Team That Will Save America!