25 Nov 2008

Obama names top economic advisers

4:29 pm on 25 November 2008

United States President-elect Barack Obama has named the economic team that will help him navigate the US financial crisis but declined to specify how much his proposed two-year stimulus package would cost.

Mr Obama has nominated Timothy Geithner, 47, as Treasury Secretary and Lawrence Summers, 53, director of the White House National Economic Council.

"Vice president-elect (Joseph) Biden and I have assembled an economic team with the vision and expertise to stabilise our economy, create jobs, and get America back on track," Mr Obama said.

"Even as we face great economic challenges, we know that great opportunity is at hand - if we act swiftly and boldly. That's the mission our economic team will take on," he said.

Mr Geithner is the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and a former Clinton administration official.

A main part of his portfolio will be managing the $US700 billion bailout for the troubled financial industry.

Mr Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary under former President Bill Clinton, will play a broad role in shaping policy and coordinating among the various other economic advisers in the administration.

No details of stimulus package

Mr Obama did not specify the size of the massive financial stimulus package he said he will roll out in January.

"It is going to be of a size and scope that is necessary to get this economy back on track," he said.

Other Democrats have said it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Mr Obama also declined to specify whether he would pursue a tax increase for the wealthy or simply allow the 2001 tax cuts to expire after tax year 2010 as scheduled.

Mr Obama also named University of California, Berkeley, economics professor Christina Romer to head his Council of Economic Advisers and Melody Barnes to head his Domestic Policy Council.

Ms Barnes, a former chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was a policy adviser to Mr Obama's presidential campaign.

Disappointed in automakers

Mr Obama has backed a bailout for Detroit automakers but said he was disappointed that the chief executives for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler did not present a concrete plan when they testified before the US Congress.

"I think Congress did the right thing, which is to say, 'You guys need to come up with a plan and come back before you are going to get any taxpayer money,'" he said.

The scope of the economic crisis has widened in the 20 days since Mr Obama's White House win.

Except for one short news conference, Mr Obama has kept a low public profile since his 4 November victory over Republican John McCain, remaining in Chicago to pick his Cabinet but not formally announcing any of his choices.

By breaking that near-silence with the unveiling of his economic team, he signaled the priority he places on addressing the economic meltdown.