Critical, The New Treasury Secretary
The most important appointment Obama will make over the next few days will be the Treasury Secretary. The person to replace Henry Paulson. As economics is the most difficult and pressing matter facing Obama, it is imperative that he make the right choice. Markets will rise and fall depending on who he selects.
a) Lawrence Summers - A renowned Harvard economist who won the John Bates Clark medal for economists under 40 in 1993, and was the Treasury Secretary under Clinton's administration. Has done it before, but under Clinton, no big financial or economic turmoil. Still an OK selection, but better than Robert Rubin definitely. His strong grasp of economics comes in handy. Summers could provide an economic lift, such as improving health care, reducing dependence on foreign energy sources and changing the tax code. He says focusing on those areas will help the economy by creating jobs and preventing families from cutting spending. Summers was among the first economists to call for a second round of economic stimulus based on infrastructure investment, which he says would help create jobs, bolster the construction industry and provide a cash infusion to municipalities. Markets to move up if he is appointed.
b) Timothy Geithner - President of New York Federal Reserve Bank. Though not well know, he should be viewed as a good selection as he was one of the early and more aggressive proponents of action to stem the crisis. Geithner would come in with an even more interventionist approach, which is what the market seems to be looking for, to solve the mess. He pushed for quicker action on Fannie & Freddie, and help strategise the bailouts of Bear Stearns and AIG. Market savvy and well regarded by Wall Street. Markets will go up slightly if he is selected.
c) Robert Rubin - another former Treasury Secretary under Clinton, ex top dog at Goldman Sachs and now a director for Citigroup. Impressive resume but largely seen as ineffective over the last 5 years. Did not forsee the crisis or counselled Citigroup properly. Was not entirely effective as Treasury Secretary. It would be a poor choice for Obama to select him. Markets will fall of Rubin is selected. Rubin is a trader, not a good economics strategist.
d) Paul Volcker - Your favourite and mine as well. Possibly the best Federal Reserve chairman ever. In his 80s, is a towering figure in U.S. monetary policy, famous for vanquishing inflation as former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Age might stop him from taking up the post. I would even just ask him to take up the post for 2 years to help guide the US through the economic landmines ahead for Obama. You can expect a sharp rally if Volcker was selected. His reputation from the 70s was unmatched. He dealth with the OPEC crisis, was brave and committed to tackle issues swiftly. Not prone to do popular stuff but effective measures. Markets will rally the strongest if Volcker is selected.
Others being mentioned include: Jon Corzine, another ex-Goldman Sachs top dog, now the Governor of New Jersey and Jamie Dimon of the unscathed JP Morgan.
p/s photos: Top, Paul Volcker with Obama Baby. Bottom, left to right, Summers, Corzine, Geithner