There are times when national events so overwhelm the municipal sector that I feel obligated to comment on developments in the nation's capital. Last week's historic downgrade of the U.S. debt rating by Standard and Poor's is such an event. The loss of AAA status is a black eye on the nation, the Obama administration and anybody else that the bickering partisans inside the Beltway wish to blame (other than themselves, of course).
President Obama has watched his team of economic advisors come and go during his term in office, to the point that the only real survivor is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has been criticized heavily -- and with occasional ridicule -- in the blogosphere despite his impressive credentials and faithful service. As the nation skates on ever-thinner ice at the risk of a double-dip recession, we need stronger leadership from a credible financial expert who's already shown a track record for making tough decisions and leading the country out of malaise.
I don't believe for a minute that there is a single Superman who can save our country from financial meltdown, but it's increasingly clear that we need a real adult at the president's side to help steer the country through the most treacherous financial waters in our lifetimes. Maybe somebody else can come up with a better suggestion, but my nomination for this role is former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The son of a city manager, Volcker has demonstrated a strong commitment to public service, and a far deeper understanding of global financial markets and the workings and shortcomings of the capitalist economy than anybody else who would be available to help the White House. For the next year, he'd be ideally suited for this role.
With state and local government credit ratings now at risk because of the federal downgrade, everybody who reads Governing magazine and its e-newsletters has a vested interest in seeing the country pull out of the mess it's in now.
I don't care what role Volcker is assigned, whether it be to head up a reformulated council of economic advisors or to take over the helm at the Treasury Department. All I ask is that the president act quickly to help inspire global confidence that we have a stronger team at the top.
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