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Obama’s economic to-do list
What the president-elect should do first to revive the economy
 

What happened
Barack Obama is meeting with his economic advisers Friday to discuss strategies for tackling the U.S. economic crisis. The advisers include former treasury secretaries Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Summers and Volcker are on Obama’s short list for treasury secretary. (Reuters)

What the commentators said
For Obama, “now comes the hard part,” said Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post (free log-in required). He comes into office with the weakest economy in 25 years and “a financial system on government life-support.” He needs to think big, and act fast while his mandate is fresh. Broad public infrastructure projects and regulatory reform are good places to start.

Fixing the regulatory system is crucial, said Floyd Norris in The New York Times, but it “must be done well, even if that means delay.” And the answer isn’t just more regulation—in some cases, over-regulation helped create our current problems. We need a more streamlined system, with better resources, staffed by people who actually “believe in the regulatory system.”

That’s important, but Obama’s first priority should be working to “unlock the credit markets,” said Fortune’s Colin Barr in CNNMoney. The biggest threat to the economy is a lack of confidence among banks, and it won't go away until they know the worth of one another’s toxic assets. Obama’s team needs to come up with a workable “price-discovery effort.”

Whatever tops his list, said Daniel Gross in Slate, “Obama and his team need to get involved in economic policymaking yesterday.” The U.S. will get along fine with the status quo in, say, the Transportation Department, but “11 weeks is a lifetime in the financial markets,” and Obama will have to live with whatever band-aids his predecessors slap on.

 

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