President-elect Barack Obama held his third press conference in Chicago in as many days Wednesday, announcing the creation of an Economic Recovery Advisory Board and naming former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to lead the panel. The group is modeled after President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board that was created to provide the President an independent voice on intelligence issues.
Mr. Obama announced, “The Board will be composed of distinguished individuals from diverse backgrounds outside of government -- from business, labor, academia and other areas -- who will bring to bear their wisdom and expertise on the formulation, implementation and evaluation of my Administration’s economic recovery plan. The Board will report regularly to me, Vice President-elect Biden and our economic team as we seek to jump-start economic growth, create jobs, raise wages, address our housing crisis and stabilize our financial markets.” By choosing Volcker to head the group, the President-elect is reaching back into a previous Democratic administration to build a team of experienced advisers and practitioners.
Paul Volcker was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and remained through the Reagan administration, leaving the post in 1987. Before taking over the Fed, he served as President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs. He is professor emeritus of international economic policy at Princeton University.
The President-elect noted, “Paul has served under both Republicans and Democrats and is held in the highest esteem for his sound and independent judgment. He has a long and distinguished record of service to our nation, and I am pleased that he has answered the call to serve once again.”
In addition, Mr. Obama announced the appointment of Austan Goolsbee as Staff Director and Chief Economist of the new advisory panel. Dr. Goolsbee is currently the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and has taught at the school since 1995. He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the American Bar Foundation. The President-elect also stated he intended to nominate Goolsbee to serve as one of three members on the Council of Economic Advisers.
The appearance of Dr. Volcker at the press conference prompted a CNN correspondent to question whether Mr. Obama was betraying his pledge to change Washington D.C. since his team was comprised of many veterans of the Clinton administration and now a Carter appointee. The President-elect laughingly pointed to Volcker and referred to the fact that he had been out of the nation’s capital for some time and that Austan Goolsbee was new to the capital; then in a more serious tone spoke directly to why he is relying on a team that has the experience and that it was his job to focus on new ways of thinking.
At times serious and deliberate in responding to reporter’s inquiries, such as when he deflected a question on whether consumers should be encouraged to spend during the holidays to stimulate the economy; Mr. Obama also showed a humorous side when joking about Paul Volcker’s age and telling reporters at the close of the press conference that they should consult with the former Fed chair and Goolsbee on Thanksgiving menus since the two men had a competition between them. It was a sign that despite the whirlwind of activity during the transition, the President-elect seems intent on keeping a calm demeanor and maintaining some sense of joviality despite the nation’s dire economic outlook.