Feature

Meeting Obama’s economic team

The challenges Tim Geithner and company will face

Barack Obama’s economic team is quickly taking shape, said Sebastian Mallaby in The Washington Post, and “not a moment too soon.” Led by experienced “pragmatists who excel at imaginative improvisation”—New York Federal Reserve President Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Larry Summers as the top White House economist—the team has a lot of work to do.

Well, the choice of Geithner “guarantees the smoothest transition from the current Treasury team,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. He knows all the major players, “knows as well as anyone which banks are vulnerable,” and has spent much of his career negotiating bailouts and soothing financial panics. But many of his views—on taxes, say—are “something of a mystery.”

The markets don’t seem to mind, said Daniel Gross in Slate. They “shot up nearly 7 percent” Friday afternoon, after Geithner’s name was leaked. What we do know about Geithner is that he has “a great deal in common with Obama”—age, number of children, experience living abroad. Also, Geithner, a 20-year “meritocratic bureaucrat,” is “a sort of community organizer for the financial world.”

So no “knock on Hank Paulson,” but can’t President Bush appoint Geithner now? said Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. We’re in a financial “Code Red,” and it’s obvious that “Bush can’t mobilize the tools to defuse” it. We need a new economic team, new ideas, and a shot of new confidence. The arrival of Obama’s team wouldn’t be “a magic wand, but it would help.”

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