The new president’s unenviable job
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: Now that Obama’s finally gotten the job, what’s he going to do with it? How’s he going to handle the economy, deal with the housing mess, just fix things. Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale’s on the line to help answer those question and some others, too. Hiya John.
John Dimsdale: Hello, Kai.
Ryssdal: So let’s see, the president-elect inherits a $700 bailout package already underway. I imagine, though, he’s going to want to do some of his own things here.
Dimsdale: He will, although at the beginning I’m not sure we can expect that. He’s shown that he’s kind of cautious when it comes to an economy that, after all, is suffering from its own volatility right now. But he’s been more critical of predatory lenders and greedy Wall Street hedge fund managers. So, when it comes to reforming the financial system, he’s clearly going to be more inclined toward tougher regulations, maybe more disclosure, more oversight.
Ryssdal: What about the guy who’s gonna run this thing for him, the new Treasury secretary? Who’s on the short list?
Dimsdale: Well, there are three names: Lawrence Summers, he’s already done the job for President Clinton; Paul Volcker, who was appointed Federal Reserve Chairman by President Carter and earned a lot of kudos for taming inflation; and Timothy Geitner, he’s the only real newcomer on the list, but at the New York Fed, he’s been very actively involved in the bailout and the rescue of banks and insurance companies. So all of these are old hands, and they’re more proof that Obama is not planning any new direction for the bailout. We also got more proof of that today when the president-elect’s office announced a transition team that’s full of insiders, many former Clinton administration people. It shows that, despite all this talk about change, putting a government together leans toward experience and continuity, especially in times like these.
Ryssdal: What about the housing industry, John, and something for mortgage holders and homeowners?
Dimsdale: He campaigned for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures that are imposed on homeowners who are acting in good faith. He favors allowing bankruptcy judges to adjust mortgage interest rates for homebuyers who are in bankruptcy. And on the broader issue of fixing the mortgage mess, he would privatize the semi-government entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Ryssdal: John, what about a second stimulus package? What’s the latest on that?
Dimsdale: Yeah, absolutely. The president-elect is a strong supporter of spending on infrastructure and new energy programs. This is going to be an early test of how the first-term senator works with Congress, because they’re gonna call the shots here. The question is whether Democrats will want to do something quickly and get something that President Bush is willing to sign, or should they wait until next year and pass a stimulus bill when the Democrats have more power to shape it in Congress and a new president more willing to sign what they come up with.
Ryssdal: Marketplace’s John Dimsdale on the line from Washington, D.C. Thank you, John.
Dimsdale” You’re welcome, Kai.
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