Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Choosing Someone for NEC

Noam Scheiber has the inside scoop on the question of who will (eventually) replace Larry Summers at the National Economic Council. 

I have no particular sense of which candidate is best (although I guess I do think that Gene Sperling's reputation is good and he has the right kind of experience for the job), but I do think that this paragraph does not inspire a lot of confidence:
My sense is that Sperling's situation is a little different from Altman's. Unlike Altman, there are people on the economic team who think he's terrific; the hesitation here is more among the political people in the White House, who wonder if he's got the right kind of public profile, that ill-defined mix of star-power/charisma/gravitas, etc. 
This is easy: no one inside the White House should care at all about the "right kind of public profile" for whoever gets the NEC job.  We're talking here about a very important position, one that will in part determine how well the economy performs in the next couple of years, which will in turn help determine whether the president wins re-election or not.  Oh, and there's the whole business about whether the American people prosper or suffer. 

The public profile, or star power, or charisma, or gravitas, or whatever will make absolutely no difference to anyone.

Now, whoever gets the job has to have enough oomph to be taken seriously within the White House, and by Treasury and other relevant departments and agencies.  If that's what Scheiber's sources are talking about, then no problem.  But the rest of it is just nonsense.  No one outside of the government (and I think I'd probably include Wall Street and other interested parties) is going to care at all who's at NEC as time goes on, certainly not outside of any policy commitments that person makes -- and since the job calls for an honest broker, that probably doesn't matter all that much either. 

No one, no one, no one is going to vote for against Barack Obama in 2012 because of the public impression left by the person at NEC.  If anyone in the White House believes otherwise, they should move to a different line of work. 

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