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Americas

Obama unveils economic team, urges 'swift' action

Video by Aurore Cloé DUPUIS

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2009-03-01

The US president-elect on Monday confirmed New York Federal Reserve president Timothy Geithner, 47, as the next Treasury secretary. He also tapped former Treasury chief Larry Summers, 53, as his chief White House economic adviser.

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President-elect Barack Obama Monday named a heavyweight economic team and vowed to put a decisive stamp on efforts to rescue the world's largest economy.
   
At a press conference here, Obama formally named New York Federal Reserve president Timothy Geithner, 47, as the next Treasury secretary to replace current holder Henry Paulson.
   
The Democrat also tapped former Treasury chief Larry Summers as his chief White House economic advisor, assembling a powerful brains trust to confront the nation's biggest economic challenge since the Great Depression.
   
"We'll need to bring together the best minds in America to guide us and that is what I've sought to do in assembling my economic team. I've sought leaders who could offer sound judgment and fresh thinking," Obama said.
   
Austan Goolsbee, a top adviser to the president-elect, said Obama was putting together "the most experienced, expert team on crisis management that probably has ever existed in an economic field in the White House."
   
"But there's one president at a time. I mean, the president-elect is not introducing legislation. He's not able to do anything. We've got to be mindful of that," he told MSNBC.
   
Nevertheless, the pick of Treasury secretary is coming unusually early and Obama is not waiting for his inauguration as President George W. Bush's successor on January 20 to spell out his plans to overhaul the US economy.
   
On Saturday as the government readied another hefty bailout, this time for stricken financial services giant Citigroup, Obama announced plans to create 2.5 million new jobs as "an early downpayment" on promised reforms.
   
Obama said he intended to put people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges, modernizing schools, building wind farms, solar panels and fuel-efficient cars -- part of a plan to break the US addiction on foreign oil.
   
"These aren't just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis," he said in a weekly broadcast. "These are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long."
   
The Obama plan could cost as much as 700 billion dollars, according to reports, the same figure made available by Congress for the Bush administration's faltering efforts to prevent a systemic banking failure.
   
Goolsbee would not be drawn on a cost figure but said "it needs to be as big a number as it needs to be. I really mean, it's got to meet the task at hand."
   
"We've tried not doing stimulus. We've tried not having a housing program.  We've tried not giving tax relief to ordinary Americans. And if you look out on the window, that's not working out so well," he said.
   
"So that era is going to end when Barack Obama becomes president."
   
Obama's top strategist David Axelrod confirmed Sunday that Geithner would be nominated for the Treasury, after overseeing the US central bank's burst of market activity from his perch atop the New York Fed.
   
"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," Axelrod told Fox.
   
Geithner -- who also serves as vice chairman of the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee -- was key to the bailouts of insurance giants AIG and Bear Stearns, and in the decision to let Lehman Brothers collapse.
   
But he is also an old Treasury hand, having risen up the ranks of US government from 1988 to 2001 to the peak of undersecretary for international affairs.
   
Summers, who was Bill Clinton's last Treasury secretary, would bring a brilliant mind to the job of director of the National Economic Council, which is tasked with coordinating the president's economic agenda.
   
But the 53-year-old would also bring a reputation for blunt speaking.
   
He resigned as president of Harvard University in 2006 after a series of run-ins with faculty and students, including his assertion that men may be innately better at mathematics and science than women.
   
Christina Romer, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is meanwhile in line to chair Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, ABC News reported.
   
Romer is a senior member of the National Bureau of Economic Research and is an expert on the impact of tax cuts on economic growth -- a central plank of Obama's program to resuscitate the US economy.
  

Date created : 2008-11-25

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