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Can Obama's Election Bump The Economy?


We go now to our friend from the world of business, Joe Nocera, who's had his eye locked on how the business world reacted to this election. He joins us now from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York. Joe, thanks for being with us.

Mr. JOE NOCERA (Business Columnist, The New York Times): Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Markets went up and down this week. Now, isn't confidence supposed to be half the battle?

Mr. NOCERA: Well, it's part of the battle. But, look, the key word in the market right now is, really, volatility. The market is not - it's not about the presidential election per se. There's a whole series of things that need to happen. The Treasury secretary needs to get named. But also, you know, the stimulus package has to happen. We need to see the government moving ahead to solve the problem before the real confidence kicks in. And there are all sorts of things going on in the market right now that mitigate against a rising Dow on any kind of regular basis for the foreseeable future, such as, for instance, in scared investors pulling money out of hedge funds, which is happening like crazy.

SIMON: There was some expectation that President-elect Obama might announce his choice for Treasury secretary yesterday. This is going to be a position that has new, almost plenipotentiary powers in the U.S. economic system. Do you think Wall Street would be pleased if he made that choice soon?

Mr. NOCERA: Yes, I absolutely do. Wall Street wants to know who the Treasury secretary is, and they want a sense that it's going to be someone of significant stature like Larry Summers or like a Paul Volcker or like a Bob Rubin. I mean, that's what Wall Street wants. And that's what the country wants, for that matter. So, you know, Wall Street's waiting for that. I mean, the big - there's a tricky issue here for the president-elect, which is, you know, how much do you really want the incoming Treasury secretary to sit next to the outgoing Treasury secretary and, you know, in effect get tied to the previous guy's policies? So, you know, Franklin Roosevelt had - you know, didn't do anything to help Hoover during his interregnum. And I think, you know, Obama now has to make the same sort of political calculation. How close do I want to get to this thing?

SIMON: Yesterday's unemployment numbers were very discouraging.

Mr. NOCERA: They sure were.

SIMON: And...

Mr. NOCERA: Well, they sure were.

SIMON: To state the obvious. And what can be done between - well, I don't even want to use the inauguration, January 20, as a benchmark. What happens over the - what could happen over the next few months that would help?

Mr. NOCERA: Well, you know, he has said - there's not much that can be done in the short term that will help. We are in a recession, Scott. And recessions, you know, you are watching companies all across the country cutting back on employees. I mean, you just pick up the paper every day. So the big - what they really - what needs to happen is the credit crisis needs to unfreeze. I mean, once you get money flowing back in the system. And that's going to take time. And, you know, I think the most encouraging thing the president-elect said yesterday was that he's not going to let the auto industry die. That must give hope to the industrial sector in a way that it hasn't had in quite a while.

SIMON: Joe Nocera, who writes the "Talking Business" column for The New York Times, thanks so much.

Mr. NOCERA: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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