James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Summers speculation roundup

Sep 22, 2010 13:03 UTC

Place your bets!


Following are economists that have been mentioned as potential replacements for Summers as director of the White House National Economic Council.


A member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, an outside panel of economic experts advising Obama. Tyson is a former top economic adviser to former President Bill Clinton. She is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.


A deputy to Summers on the National Economic Council. She also sits on Obama’s Auto Task Force. From 2002 to 2009, Farrell was Director of the McKinsey Global Institute, the economics research arm of McKinsey & Company. Prior to joining McKinsey, she worked at Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst.


He’s also a deputy to Summers. Furman served as Economic Policy Director of Obama’s presidential campaign. He served in the Clinton administration as a staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers and later worked for the National Economic Council. In addition, he was a senior adviser to a top World Bank official.


A member of the bipartisan deficit commission Obama formed early this year to tackle the deficit. Fudge was chairman and chief executive officer of Young & Rubicam Brands. She also held senior executive positions at General Mills and Kraft.


Chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, Gensler is a former Treasury official and Goldman Sachs employee. He was also a senior adviser to former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Paul Sarbanes, on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.


Counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Sperling headed the National Economic Council in the Clinton administration. He served as an economic policy adviser to the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign and was also an economic adviser to former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.


Chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, Zandi was an economic adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign. But he has also advised the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans.


Chairman and CEO of General Electric since 2001. Immelt is also a member of The Business Council and is on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.


Chairman of Citigroup and a former chair and chief executive of Time Warner, Parsons was on the Obama transition team’s economic advisory board before being named Citigroup chairman. He also served on a task force under former President George W. Bush that examined Social Security changes.


Former Xerox Corp. chief executive. She serves on the President’s Economic Advisory Board.


Among those whose names have been discussed is Anne Mulcahy, the former chief executive officer of Xerox Corp., two people familiar with administration discussions said. Other potential candidates include David Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc., and Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup Inc., according to one of the people. Cote is a member of Obama’s commission on cutting the federal deficit and, along with Parsons and Mulcahy, has been among the executives the president has called to the White House for consultations. The co-chairman of the deficit commission, former Clinton administration official Erskine Bowles, also has been mentioned as a possibility, a third person said.

Wall Street Journal:

Former Xerox Corp. chief executive Anne Mulcahy quickly emerged as a leading candidate to replace Mr. Summers, though White House officials caution that no decisions have been made yet. A senior administration official confirmed that Ms. Mulcahy had dinner in Washington Friday evening with senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett. She is highly thought of within the administration, the official said, where she serves on the President’s Economic Advisory Board. Other candidates include Deputy National Economic Council Director Diana Farrell, who came to the White House from McKinsey & Company, and Laura Tyson, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who served in the Clinton administration as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.


Potential Summers replacements reportedly being initially considered include Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Ursula Burns, chairwoman and CEO of the Xerox Corp.; Ann Mulcahy, the company’s former CEO; and veteran economist Laura Tyson, who held the NEC director’s post in the Clinton administration. Obama is also expected to give a close look to business executives, as well as women candidates currently serving on his Economic Recovery Advisory Board and the President’s Export Council. The president is also known to think highly of Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economist Jared Bernstein .

Washington Post:

As Obama gears up for the 2012 reelection campaign, administration officials need both a fresh face on the economy and someone who can craft a credible vision for creating jobs and restoring the nation’s economic vitality. Sources said the White House is considering whether to choose a candidate who could blunt criticism that the administration has been anti-business, such as a corporate chieftain or prominent investor. Administration officials are also eager to find a woman to fill a top economic role, since Romer’s departure left Obama with an all-male group of principals at his daily economic briefing.

More on Larry Summers leaving the White House

Sep 22, 2010 12:42 UTC

A few additional thoughts about Larry Summers leaving the White House and going back to Harvard:

1. His replacement as director of the National Economic Council will be an interesting tea leaf.  Obama’s recent replacements for WH budget chief,  Jack Lew, and head of his council of economic advisers, Austan Goolsbee, were steps toward the center. Another centrist (like Jason Furman) could hint at The Pivot, a POTUS effort to work with a congress next year that will likely be far more Republican. And a liberal pick (Jared Bernstein) though, could be a signal to Obama’s base that the president intends to double-down on Obamanomics 1.0.  Markets would like the former, not the latter.

2. On substance, the new NEC head might not be that big a deal. The position will likely revert to that of a coordinator from being the high-level policymaking job it was with Summers who was basically Obama’s maximum economist, at least in 2009.

3. I know that business is clamoring for a CEO to get the gig. And while I think it would be fantastic to get someone in the White House with significant private sector experience, I really want someone who is more pro-market more than pro-business. We need to get rid of corporate pork and take a more realistic approach to China’s anti-market trading position.

4. These are some of the names I was Tweeting (https://twitter.com/JimPethokoukis) yesterday afternoon (followed by odds from Paddy Power): Ann Fudge (5/2), Laura Tyson (11/4), Anne Mulcahy (6/1), Jason Furman (4/1), Mark Zandi (9/1), Diana Farrell (9/2),  Jeffrey Immelt (8/1), Gene Sperling (9/2), Richard Parsons (10/1), Gary Gensler (10/1).


The WH is too male dominated. Bring in some women economists and budget experts. Laura Tyson is well respected but she may not want to leave her attractive life in Berkeley CA. What about Susan Athey – the brilliant Clark medallist? What about Carmen Reinhart? Janet Yellin? Linda Bilmes? Caroline Hoxby? Esther Duflo? There are plenty of good candidates if you look hard enough.

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The departure of Larry Summers

Sep 22, 2010 11:09 UTC

So who is going to replace Larry Summers over at the White House? My Reuters colleagues list a number of options. I have come up with a number of my own over at Twitter. (The WH would love a female CEO as director of the National Economic Council, methinks.) Anyway, here is my Reuters Breakingviews column on the the impending Summers exit:

If deftly handled, the exit of brilliant-but-testy White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers could be addition by subtraction. Summers’ departure for Harvard University gives President Barack Obama an opportunity to fill a gaping hole in his administration’s skill set: private sector experience.

Businessmen, both big and small, would be thrilled to see the next director of the National Economic Council – a key role in the country’s economic leadership – drawn from their own ranks. Executives have repeatedly knocked Team Obama for overweighting academics and government apparatchiks over folks who’ve met payrolls and earned profits. Summers’ two year stint as an adviser at hedge fund D.E. Shaw made him one of the few members of the Obama White House with “real world” experience.

Certainly such a move would make it a bit less likely that president would, as he did at Monday’s town hall meeting, have to reassure Corporate America that he believes making a buck isn’t morally inferior to community organizing.

But such a decision could have policy implications as well. A CEO in the vicinity of the Oval Office might point out the risks of regulatory overhaul amid economic uncertainty. Or he/she might highlight how higher taxes can alter the risk-reward calculations of business owners and investors. Just having someone in the West Wing that business sees as offering a sympathetic ear might be enough to spur détente.

But the significance of the position shouldn’t be overstated. Traditionally, the NEC director is a coordinator more than an idea generator. In that way Summers has been something of an anomaly. He served as Obama’s maximum economist in 2009, designing the stimulus plan, helping steer financial reform and keeping a watchful eye on markets.

During the past year, though, there’s been a sneaking suspicion with the November midterm elections approaching that more policy is being conducted by the Obama political gurus than the financial guys. If so, that power shift may continue as the president continues positioning himself for a possible 2012 reelection campaign.

Still, with the economy clearly the top priority of voters, Obama’s pick to replace Summers will be given plenty of symbolic weight. And with business still nervous about taxes, deficits and regulation a friendlier face would be a way for him to sound the “all clear.”


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