President-elect Barack Obama takes another step toward tackling the ailing US economy on Wednesday as part of an aggressive effort to demonstrate that his administration will face the global financial crisis head-on.
The Wall Street Journal reported Obama would name Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to chair a new economic advisory panel designed to stabilize financial markets and steer the country out of a recession.
Quoting Democratic officials, the newspaper reported on its Web site that University of Chicago economist and Obama policy adviser Austan Goolsbee would serve as the panel's staff director.
It said the board would not supplant the Treasury Department, but give Obama an official forum for getting expert advice outside bureaucratic channels.
Obama, who succeeds President George W. Bush on January 20, seems already to be taking the reins as financial market players increasingly tune out the current president and focus instead on the country's next leader.
In addition to naming his top economic advisers, Obama has come closer to forming his national security team, with reports saying that Republican Robert Gates will stay on as defense secretary and retired Marine Gen. James Jones will take over as national security adviser.
Those appointments, along with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, are likely to be made early next week, after the November 27 Thanksgiving holiday.
For now Obama has put his focus squarely on the economy, pledging a costly stimulus package that he urged the next Congress to pass quickly.
On Tuesday, he vowed to cut billions of dollars in wasteful government spending.
But questions remain about both goals. Obama declined to put a figure on the stimulus package - other Democrats have estimated it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars - and he did not identify specific government programs to be cut.
Analysts said Obama's daily economic pronouncements showed the next president stepping into a leadership chasm.
“Confidence in Bush as an effective president has eroded so substantially that he is no longer taken seriously,” said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.
“There is, of course, much more confidence in Obama or he would not have been elected as president. And, he is the president-in-waiting, so the only alternative the country has to Bush as a leader, especially in a period when the markets have failed and government must play an enlarged role in them.”
Obama has not shied away from telling struggling industries like banks and automakers to take responsibility for their ailing position in the economy.
In an interview with ABC television network, Obama said bank executives should forego their bonuses this year. (Reuters)