Obama names Volcker to head markets panel

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    Maikeru-sama Mick Green 58

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    By Jeff Mason and Ross Colvin

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday named former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker as chair of a new panel to advise him on stabilizing financial markets and averting a painful recession.

    The move is another step toward tackling the problems ailing the U.S. economy and is part of an aggressive effort by Obama to demonstrate that his administration will face the global financial crisis head-on when he takes over on January 20.

    The new board is modeled on an advisory panel that gives the president nonpartisan advice on national security matters, Obama said.

    "Sometimes policymaking in Washington can become a little bit too ingrown, a little bit too insular. The walls of the echo chamber can sometimes keep out fresh voices and new ways of thinking," Obama said at his third news conference in as many days.

    "This board will provide that fresh perspective to me and my administration," he said.

    Financial markets were essentially unchanged by the news of the appointment, which had leaked overnight.

    Volcker, 81, has been an important economic adviser to Obama on economic issues. As Federal Reserve chairman in the early 1980s, he was credited with taming inflation through policies that also contributed to a recession at the time.

    Obama also named campaign adviser Austan Goolsbee as the panel's staff director. Obama said the University of Chicago professor had "shaped his thinking" on economic matters.

    Obama, who will succeed President George W. Bush, seems already to be taking the reins as financial market players increasingly tune out the current president and focus instead on the next U.S. leader.

    Other members of the board, who will be named later, will be drawn from business, labor and academia, Obama said.

    The drumbeat of bad news continued on Wednesday, as the Commerce Department reported consumers cut spending during October at the steepest rate in more than seven years and orders for costly manufactured goods plummeted.

    In addition to naming his top economic advisers, Obama has come closer to forming his national security team, with reports saying that current Defense Secretary Robert Gates will remain in his post and retired Marine Gen. James Jones will take over as national security adviser.

    Those appointments, along with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, are likely to be made early next week, after the November 27 U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.


    For now Obama has put his focus squarely on the economy, pledging a costly stimulus package that he urged the next Congress to pass quickly.

    On Tuesday, he vowed to cut billions of dollars in wasteful government spending.

    But questions remain about both goals. Obama declined to put a figure on the stimulus package -- other Democrats have said it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- and he did not identify specific government programs to be cut to help pay for it.

    Analysts said Obama's economic pronouncements showed the next president stepping into a leadership void left by Bush.

    "Confidence in Bush as an effective president has eroded so substantially that he is no longer taken seriously," said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.

    "There is, of course, much more confidence in Obama or he would not have been elected as president," Beck said. "And he is the president-in-waiting, so the only alternative the country has to Bush as a leader, especially in a period when the markets have failed and government must play an enlarged role in them."

    Obama has not shied away from telling struggling industries like banks and automakers to take responsibility for their ailing position in the economy. In an interview with the ABC television, Obama said bank executives should forego their bonuses this year.


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