President-elect Barack Obama Monday named some of “the best minds in America” headed by Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary to revive the stricken US economy through aggressive government intervention.
Recovery will not come overnight but there is not a “minute to waste,” Obama said as he lost little time in unveiling a heavyweight team of economic lieutenants including ex-Treasury boss Larry Summers as a top adviser.
At his second news conference since his election triumph on November 4, Obama said the US economy was trapped in a “vicious cycle” but touted a plan to create 2.5 million jobs through a spending spree on national infrastructure.
Obama nominated Geithner to take charge of the Treasury and its 700-billion-dollar bailout for troubled financial institutions, as the US administration announced its latest rescue deal, this time for Citigroup.
Vowing to uphold President George W. Bush’s far-reaching market commitments, the Democrat said: “We’ll need to bring together the best minds in America to guide us and that is what I’ve sought to do in assembling my economic team.”
The president-elect, who takes office on January 20, said his team offered “a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas,” with the understanding “that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.”
Obama reaffirmed that he would not allow the embattled US auto industry “simply to vanish,” but vowed no “blank check” for a government bailout without long-term changes from the Detroit manufacturers.
With the main economic players in place, Obama is expected soon to fill out his national security posts and select a secretary of state — with former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton hotly tipped to serve as diplomat-in-chief.
Geithner, 47, brings up-close experience of the financial crisis having executed the US central bank’s burst of market activity from his perch atop the New York Fed.
The former Treasury official “will start his first day on the job with a unique insight into the failures of today’s markets — and a clear vision of the steps we must take to revive them,” Obama said.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson lauded his designated successor for having been “critical” to the administration’s attempts to shore up a battered Wall Street, including in the bailouts of Bear Stearns and insurance giant AIG.
Geithner also received fulsome praise from the White House after taking part in talks to craft a 20-billion-dollar rescue deal for Citigroup announced earlier by the Bush administration.
“He’s obviously exceptionally talented and very smart and ably led the New York Fed these past number of years,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
Obama meanwhile touted Summers, 53, as “one of the great economic minds of our time” as he named Bill Clinton’s blunt-talking final Treasury secretary as director of the powerful National Economic Council.
Obama scheduled another press conference for Tuesday, where further economic appointments were expected along with more details of a planned stimulus package that some reports said could top 700 billion dollars.
The package should be “enacted right away” by the new Congress in January, he said.
Obama declined to reveal the cost but said: “It is going to be of a size and scope that is necessary to get this economy back on track.”
Despite the risk of stunningly high budget deficits, Obama vowed to keep his campaign promise to cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans by raising taxes on the richest, but stopped short of elaborating a timeline.
Obama said Bush’s tax cuts were “disproportionately targeted to the wealthiest Americans. Those making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year can afford a little more,” he said.
Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Congress stands ready to work with the new president on his bold plan to restore confidence to our economy.”
House Republican leader John Boehner said that while he looked forward to working with Obama’s economic team, the US public did “not believe increasing government spending is the best way to put our economy back on track.”
Obama also appointed Christina Romer, a Berkeley economist and leading expert on how the nation recovered from the 1930s Great Depression, to chair his Council of Economic Advisers.
Melody Barnes, a senior campaign adviser who is an expert on health care reform, will be director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council. Her deputy will be Heather Higginbottom, who was policy director for his presidential campaign.
FROM MSN INDONESIA