WASHINGTON -- With the selection of his top economic advisers, President-elect Bill Clinton has opted for a set of policymakers who are wise in the ways of Capitol Hill and Wall Street.
It is a powerful combination of people who know how to get legislation through Congress and how to make money in financial markets. Equally important, Clinton will have people at his side from the business community who will be sensitive to budget decisions that might undermine the confidence of investors and rattle markets around the globe.
Clinton's choice of Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, chairman of the Senate Fianance Committee, puts in place someone who can be a powerful advocate for the President's economic programs when he appears before congressional committees. Bentsen has stature and clout, two big assets that will make him an effective negotiator in addition to being a respected spokesman for the President.
Robert Rubin, co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., who was named to be the new national economic adviser, will carry out Clinton's plan to elevate the role of economic policy in the new administration. He will be responsible for coordinating all economic-related decisions coming out of the various cabinet agencies.
Rubin is a 54-year old arbitrage artist whose brilliant career on Wall Street reportedly makes him worth from $50 million to $100 million. A big donor and fund-raiser for the Democrats, he also has an impressive record of community service in New York City and has served on a number of public commissions.
House Budget Committee Leon Panetta, D-Calif., who agreed to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget, earned a reputation as a frequent proponent of budget cuts during his 16 years in office. He backed legislation to balance the budget within five years and now supports Clinton's plan to halve the deficit in four years, a spokesman says.
Panetta will have a strong hand from Alice Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, who was named deputy director of OMB. Rivlin has won wide acclaim for her detailed knowledge of the budget, and she is a practiced hand in all the issues.
Roger Altman, 46, who was named deputy Treasury secretary, headed the international mergers and acquisitions business for the Blackstone Group. In his new government role, he is expected to provide key leadership on global economic policy issues.
The interesting point is that Clinton went with known political and financial professionals rather than any of the armchair academics and policy "wonks" who have been high in the campaign hierarchy.
The list of professors who were bypassed is a long one. It includes Alan Blinder of Princeton University and Paul Krugman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two proponents of federal pump priming to aid the economy. James Tobin of Yale University and Robert Solow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who signed a petition last March urging $50 billion in additional federal spending, also failed to get the nod.
Other academics who have advised Clinton include Robert Shapiro, now vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute; Barry Carter of Georgetown University; and Derek Shearer of Occidental College.
Robert Reich of Harvard, head of the economic transition team and a close friend of Clinton's, was offered the Labor Department instead of getting one of the top economic slots.
Other academics also got lower-rung jobs. Laura Tyson, a professor of economics and business administration from the University of California at Berkeley, agreed to serve as chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. And Donna Shalala was picked to head up the Department of Health and Human Services.
Academic economist have offered plenty of ideas for using government to reshape the world and make it better, but none ever earned a reputation for running a business or making tough political choices.
Still, Clinton is leaving room for micro-managers who wish to direct more federal dollars to technology research, defense conversion, education, and other areas of the Clinton economic agenda.
He faces competing pressures as he seeks to fulfill his pledge to reduce the deficit while trying to take the government in new directions.