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Any Team Players on Obama's Economic Team?


Roster is high-powered, but can they deliver?


The Economist, the prestigious British magazine, gives President-Elect Barack Obama's economic team high marks for experience and smarts, but questions its ability to turn things around.

"Their IQs are off the chart," the magazine quotes a friend of some team members as saying; 3 are PhD-accredited economists. The fourth, Timothy Geithner, the new Treasury Secretary, now heads the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He's the only appointee without a doctorate. The magazine calls him a "respected central banker."

Larry Summers served as President Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, and supported a bill in 1999 that eliminated the barriers between commercial and investment banks. Summers will be director of the National Economic Council. The magazine describes him as "brilliant, experienced, ego surplus, sensitivity deficit."

Peter Orszag will serve as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and is the outgoing director of the Congressional Budget Office. He's known for "such page-turners as Saving Social Security, a 300-page tome boasting 37 pages of footnotes and 8 appendices," The Economist says, citing his solid experience and attention to detail.

Christina Romer, incoming chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is an economic historian at the Berkeley campus of the University of California and with her husband, David, recently published a paper showing how raising taxes "retards growth."

Paul Volcker will serve as chairman of the Economic Recovery Board. He is perhaps best known for controlling inflation under President Reagan in the 1980s.

The Economist found the team's overall centrism particularly notable: In the words of one hedge fund manager, it boasts " 'No Robert Reichs,' a reference to the leftish adviser who was Mr. Clinton's labor secretary."

The magazine has that right, but may miss a basic point: It's not clear how long the left wing of the Democratic Party will stick with Obama on economic matters, given economists like these.

We'll see. So far, it's hard to argue with those Obama has selected as his economic advisers - though it's unclear whether or not they'll be able to truly function as a team.

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