Obama's economic circle has a Clinton presence

By: AP
By: AP

As he confronts the nation's worst financial crisis since the Depression, President-elect Obama has assembled a broad based team of economic advisers though those who stand closest to him tend to be non-ideological pragmatists.

They are drawn from academia and from past administrations, with an emphasis on Clinton-era veterans. Obama also is known to listen to a variety of top business leaders, including Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt and billionaire financier Warren Buffett.

Among those in the president-elect's circle of economic advisers:

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ROBERT RUBIN

Rubin is a member of Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board. He was treasury secretary from 1995 to 1999 and is a director of Citigroup. He is considered a fiscal disciplinarian who views long-term deficits as a threat to the economy. Rubin was among those in the Clinton administration who championed legislation passed in 1999 that lifted many regulations over the financial industry and that have now been blamed for some of the current economic problems. In an unusual double bylined Op-ed piece in The New York Times on Monday, Rubin and Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute and also an unofficial Obama adviser, said ideological clashes over fiscal discipline and spending, capital and labor, and free trade and protectionism amounted to "false choices." They argued for moving past such false choices in such difficult economic times and "toward a balanced pragmatism whose goal is broadly shared prosperity and increased economic security."

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LAWRENCE SUMMERS

Like Rubin, Summers is on Obama's transition advisory board. He served as treasury secretary at the end of Clinton's administration. He has impressive academic and professional credentials. When he was 28 years old, he became one of the youngest professors to receive tenure at Harvard. after leaving the Clinton cabinet in 2001 he returned to Harvard as its new president. He had a combustible relationship with the university faculty that peaked when he argued that gender differences explained why fewer women pursued math and science careers. He resigned in 2006. He and Timothy Geithner, president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York, have been mentioned as potential treasury secretaries under Obama. Summer's Harvard experience has so angered women's groups that he could face a difficult confirmation in the Senate if Obama were to choose him.

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LAURA D'ANDREA TYSON

Tyson also serves on Obama's advisory team. She is a professor at Berkeley's Haas School of Business international economist and was a senior economic adviser to President Clinton. She was the first female chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Before going to Berkeley she was dean of the London Business School - the first woman to head one of the top 10 international business schools. In an interview, she told the newspaper The Guardian in 2006: "For the past 30 years we've seen major productivity gains but the only people who have gained are the top 10 per cent. Those in the middle aren't going anywhere - they're mortgaged up to the wazoo and their savings are now next to nothing - while the gap between top and bottom is now wider than it has been at any time since the Twenties." She also is mentioned as a potential candidate for treasury secretary.

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JASON FURMAN

Furman was the Obama campaign's director of economic policy. He served as a special assistant on economic policy to President Clinton. Before joining the Obama campaign he was director of the Hamilton Project, an initiative of the Brookings Institution to develop economic policy solutions. He has taught at Yale, Columbia and New York University's Wagner School. He received doctorate in economics from Harvard University. Furman is considered a centrist on trade and fiscal policy, not a comforting stance among liberals and labor leaders. But he also was a leading figure in making the counterpoints to President Bush's failed effort to restructure Social Security.

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AUSTAN GOOLSBEE

Goolsbee was the campaign's senior economic policy adviser. He is a professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He also has been a columnist for The New York Times and for the online magazine Slate. He gained unwanted visibility in March after a Canadian consulate memo asserted that Goolsbee privately told Canadian officials that Obama's public statements on trade were "political positioning." Goolsbee disputed the claim. Goolsbee is considered a centrist economist who, like Furman, opposes personal retirement accounts for Social Security. His lists his marriage to his wife, Robin, as "the best thing to happen in my world." But he also appears to be wedded to his craft. A photograph on his Web site shows him in a tuxedo teaching a class. The caption: "Teaching class on Nov. 1, 1997 (my wedding day)."

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PAUL VOLCKER

Volcker has been an adviser to Obama on economic matters. In this group, Volcker stands out as an outlier - he's neither a rising star nor a former Clinton insider, yet the 81-year-old former Fed Chairman has developed a close relationship with the young Illinois senator. Volcker was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1977 by President Carter and reappointed by President Reagan. He is credited with ending the super inflation rates of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But his moves also were blamed for causing the worst recession since the Great Depression. In a speech in April Volcker criticized regulators during the era under his successor at the Fed, Alan Greenspan, saying they allowed the subprime mortgage mess to become "the mother of all crises." In testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in May he argued for a stronger regulatory regime for hedge funds and investment banks.

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