- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama reached back to the future today to announce the formation of a high-powered watchdog board to oversee his administrations plans for economic recovery to ensure that they achieve results.

Help is on the way, he said.

The Presidents Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be composed of individuals outside government from business, labor and the academic world that will be headed by Paul Volcker, who chaired the Federal Reserve Board under President Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Mr. Volcker, 81, also served as an economic adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate.

Austan Goolsbee, an economist at the University of Chicago in the city where Mr. Obama lives will be the boards chief staff member. He was another economic adviser to the president-elect.

Mr. Obama made the announcement at his third news conference at his Chicago headquarters in as many days that focused on plans to tackle the nations worsening economic situation, including the creation of an economic team designed to chart a course to recovery. He spoke 55 days before his inauguration.

The economy has become the number one priority for the incoming Obama administration even as the government reported increasingly gloomy figures pointing to a deepening recession, with unemployment at 6.5 percent and consumer spending, the sale and value of housing and factory orders declining.

As part of his planned economic stimulus package, Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he wants to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years.

In announcing the appointment of the economic recovery panel, Mr. Obama found a model for it by reaching back to the Eisenhower administration its Presidents Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. President Dwight D. Eisenhower served from 1953 to 1961.

That panel was designed to provide rigorous analysis and rigorous oversight of our intelligence community by individuals outside of government individuals who would be candid and unsparing in their assessment, Mr. Obama said.

This new board will perform a similar function for my administration as we formulate our economic policy, he said.

Mr. Volcker is most well known during the 1980s for having raised interest rates and restricting the money supply in a successful attempt to control rampant inflation. But his recipe for inflation control also created a severe recession.

He pulls no punches, Mr. Obama said. He seems to be fairly opinionated.

Mr. Obama, who campaigned on a slogan of change in Washington, said the purpose of a panel of outside experts to watch over the recession-fighting team is to ensure that it gets input from beyond the nations capital.

The reality is that sometimes policymaking in Washington can become too insular, he said. The walls of the echo chamber can sometimes keep out fresh voices and new ways of thinking, and those who serve in Washington dont always have a ground-level sense of which programs and policies are working for people and which arent.

The board will report regularly to him, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his economic team as we seek to jump-start economic growth, create jobs, raise wages, address our housing crisis and stabilize our financial markets, Mr. Obama said.

He defended his appointment of Clinton administration officials to help run his administration, including Tim Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Mr. Summers was President Bill Clintons treasury chief and Mr. Geithner was a Treasury Department official.

The American people would be troubled if I selected a treasury secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council at one of the most critical economic times in our history who had no experience in government whatsoever, Mr. Obama said.

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