WASHINGTON, November 24 – US president-elect Barack Obama was poised Monday to unveil his White House economic team, which faces the monumental task of reversing one of the most serious crises faced by the US economy in recent decades.
Hoping for a running start in correcting the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Obama was to hold a press conference formally announcing his choice of New York Federal Reserve Bank chief Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary.
The pick buoyed markets when Geithner\’s name was floated on Friday, causing a rebound in the price of shares on Wall Street, which closed in positive territory, ending a slump that saw shares on the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummet last week to their lowest levels since 1997.
Obama\’s top strategist David Axelrod confirmed the president-elect\’s choice, which was to be made official at Monday\’s 1700 GMT press conference.
"Tim Geithner is someone who had experience in dealing with economic crises as the assistant secretary of Treasury for international affairs in the \’90s," incoming White House senior advisor Axelrod told Fox television Sunday.
"He\’s intimately involved with the situation now in his role as president of New York Fed. By temperament and experience, he\’s the right man to lead the treasury now.
Obama also was expected to introduce another key member of his economic team, Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury chief in Bill Clinton\’s administration, was in line to become chief economic advisor.
Axelrod did not confirm rumors that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is being vetted for Commerce Secretary.
The Treasury post is widely considered one of the most powerful in Washington, made even more potent because it is now tasked with managing a massive 750-billion dollar financial rescue package for faltering US financial institutions.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress were preparing plans for a second massive economic stimulus program that could total as much as 700 billion dollars over the next two years.
Pressed about Geithner\’s handling of the crisis so far and harsh criticism of the decision to allow Lehman Brothers to fail, Axelrod defended Geithner.
"We\’re in unchartered waters. And I\’m not going to re-litigate every decision that\’s been made under these unique circumstances."
But "Tim Geithner was an early warning system in terms of the need for greater regulation, and has been ahead of the curve on a lot of these issues," Axelrod argued.
Summers, selected to become director of the National Economic Council (NEC), would take on the role of chief presidential economic adviser, as the world struggles to counter the still-expanding effects of the international financial crisis.
Referring to Geithner and Summers, Axelrod said: "They are people who are recognized across the board as leaders in the area of the economy.
Economically "things may get worse before they get better… we want to hit the ground running… These are the people, the best minds in our country to help us," he stressed.
"Obviously we have dramatic problems facing the country… we\’ve got big problems and we need to start climbing out of the hole," Axelrod said.
Meanwhile, the adviser warned that the "Big Three" US automakers, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors- will have to come up with a plan for how they intend to reinvent their moribund companies before Congress will come up with funds for a federal bailout.
The companies came to Capitol Hill last week with cap in hand to seek money to stay afloat, but were rebuffed by US lawmakers.
"They\’re going to have to retool and rationalize their industry for the future. And if they don\’t do that, then there\’s very little that taxpayers can do to help them," Axelrod said.
He also addressed speculation that Hillary Clinton would be named secretary of state in coming days, saying that the New York senator and former Obama rival for the White House was "a demonstrably able, brilliantly able person" and "that is the basis on which we would make such an important" decision.