WASHINGTON — Promising that "help is on the way" for the beleaguered U.S. economy, President-elect Barack Obama named former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to lead a new panel designed to help the incoming administration avoid economic "groupthink."
"Sometimes policymaking in Washington can become a little bit too ingrown, a little bit too insular," Obama told reporters at a press conference in Chicago. "The walls of the echo chamber can sometimes keep out fresh voices and new ways of thinking."
The new Economic Recovery Advisory Board, he said, would provide "an infusion of ideas from across the country and from all sectors of our economy."
Its leader, Volcker, brings years of policymaking experience to the panel. Obama pointed to his management of past economic crises and his service in both Democrat and Republican administrations.
"He pulls no punches, he seems to be fairly opinionated," Obama joked.
Obama also confirmed that his economic advisor Austan Goolsbee will serve on the new board, as well as on the Council of Economic Advisors. Other members of the advisory board will be named in the weeks ahead.
Modeled on an Eisenhower-era intelligence advisory board, Obama's panel will report regularly to him on ways to boost growth, create jobs, raise wages and address the housing crisis.
"They are there to challenge some of our assumptions, to make sure that we are not just doing the same old thing all the time," Obama said of the board.
Wednesday's press conference is the third in as many days for Obama, who has acted quickly to assure on-edge financial markets that his administration will forcefully confront the economic slump with a mix of short-term stimulus and long-term fiscal discipline.
On Monday, the president-elect unveiled his choices to lead the Treasury Department and the National Economic Council, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, respectively. On Tuesday, he named Peter Orszag as his nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget.
Obama on Wednesday declined to criticize the Bush administration's handling of the economic crisis, but said he is frustrated with stagnant wage growth and the government's failure to tackle long-term challenges like health care and energy.
"Most of all, I think, frustration with the incapacity of Washington to take bold, clear, decisive steps to deal with our economic problems," he said. "I was elected with the charge of getting this economy back in shape but also making sure that it's working on behalf of middle-class families."
Obama's public focus on the economy this week - more than two months before he moves into the Oval Office - contrasts with President George W. Bush's recent low-profile approach. Though his administration has committed hundreds of billions of dollars to stabilizing financial market and reviving consumer lending, the president himself hasn't had a full press conference since July.
Bush addressed reporters Monday on the government's decision to rescue Citigroup Inc., but didn't take questions. While Obama was briefing reporters in Chicago Wednesday, Bush was pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey, a presidential tradition that began with Harry Truman in 1947.