President-elect Barack Obama hasn't stepped into the White House yet, but he made it apparent today that he and his team are moving ahead with their plans for the economy.
Announcing his economic team, Obama tried to reassure the country's financial markets and promised that he will honor the bailout commitments already made by President Bush.
"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," Obama said at a news conference in Chicago. "I've sought leaders who could offer both sound judgment and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas -- and most of all, who share my fundamental belief that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers; that in this country, we rise and fall as one nation, as one people."
The names of Obama's economic team members introduced today were not surprising because they had been leaked in the past few days. New York Federal Reserve head Timothy Geithner will become Obama's Treasury secretary, pending Senate confirmation. Larry Summers, who was Treasury secretary in President Clinton's regime and Geithner's former boss, will head Obama's National Economic Council.
Two new names rounded out Obama's economic brain trust, which also includes University of California-Berkeley economics professor Christina Romer. She will head the Council of Economic Advisers, which is in the executive office of the president.
He also announced that Melody Barnes would be his director of the Domestic Policy Council.
And to prove that his new team is already on the job, Obama said, "I have asked my economic team to develop recommendations for this plan, and to consult with Congress, the current Administration and the Federal Reserve on immediate economic developments over the next two months. I have requested that they brief me on these matters on a daily basis, and in the coming weeks, I will provide the American people and the incoming Congress with an overview of their initial recommendations."
Although he doesn't take office until Jan. 20, Obama said he was outlining the shape of his economic office and policies because "our families cannot afford to keep on waiting and hoping for a solution."
Obama's team is already working with congressional leaders to design and pass an ambitious economic stimulus plan so Obama can sign it into law when he takes office Jan. 20.
That may be overly ambitious because the Democrats won't have their hefty majority until early next year, and the Republicans made it clear today that they are not in favor of massive new spending.
"In his first major economic announcement since the election, President-elect Obama proposed billions of dollars in new government spending that will come at a burdensome cost to American families and small businesses," the Republican National Committee said in a statement after Obama's news conference.
Obama insisted, however, that the "first job of my economic team is to shape that economic stimulus" package and that it should also "lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth."
He declined to say how large the stimulus package would be.
"It's going to be of a size and scope that is necessary to get this economy back on track," he said.