An Economic War Cabinet

Rich Galen

10/3/2011 10:33:00 AM - Rich Galen

In 1939 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced the creation of his War Cabinet which was made up of five Conservative members and four Liberals.

When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister he narrowed his War Cabinet to five members - three Conservatives and two Liberals.

War Cabinets, over the past 100-or-so years, have been formed in Great Britain when it was determined that the very survival of the Kingdom is at risk and it is necessary to bring the best minds in Parliament to bear on the threat, notwithstanding party affiliation.

As I am writing this, at about 9 PM Sunday, I am looking at the Asian markets. They are all down.

If you watch CNBC on weekday mornings, as I do, you want to pull the covers up over your head, curl up in the fetal position, and hope that your 401(k) doesn't go to zero-oh-one(k).

Although I am not a trader, I am an interested party. While the specific numbers don't matter as much as the general trend, Friday ended the month and the quarter and it wasn't good.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 240.60 points, or 2.2 percent on Friday resulting in a 6percent loss for the month of September, the fifth consecutive monthly loss. The Dow fell 12 percent for the quarter, the worst quarter since March 2009.

At the end of March of 2009, remember, we were six weeks into the $787 billion stimulus package about which President Obama had claimed,

"We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time."

You know where we are. More than fourteen million Americans are out of work. Last week the government announced the economy - measured by the Gross Domestic Product - had grown at an annual rate of only 1.3 percent in the second quarter.

Worldwide the news is no better. The Independent newspaper of Ireland led a piece out the global economy this way:

"The economies of the world's biggest economies are close to grinding to a halt as increased uncertainty hampers growth, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned today."

The chief economist of the Paris-based think tank said:

"There's a clear drop in confidence in both business and households which reflects what they see as a lack of policy response from governments."

Ah. "A lack of policy response from governments." That's what we need to focus on.

President Obama should come in from the campaign trail to reach out and call upon the best economic minds in the nation to come to Washington and figure out that the "policy response" from his government should be.

He should form an Economic War Cabinet. It even has a nifty acronym: The EWC.

He should, as Chamberlain and Churchill did when England was threatened by Germany, reach out not to just Keynesians like Paul Krugman, but to Conservative economic thinkers like Larry Lindsay.

In fact, I would pay good money to be in the room with Krugman and Lindsay.

There are many other economists but I happen to recognize those two names so they would be good anchors of the Left and the Right. They could be like the team captains in a pick-up baseball game - each choosing a member of the EWC until they got to seven or nine or whatever number the President deemed workable.

We wouldn't ask them to check their ideology at the door. We would want them to set their ideologies, like their iPads, in front of them at the table. The idea would be to have them apply their considerable intellects to the problem of seeking common ground within their ideologies to help get the nation's economies moving again.

There is no one economy of the United States. From the financial/service/engineering centers on the East and West coasts, to the vast agricultural areas between them, to the industrial Midwest (and increasingly the Southeast) there are many different economies.

It is quite likely that the EWC would decide that certain programs would help in Illinois and Michigan and others would be more beneficial to Iowa and Kansas.

If President Obama is looking for a bold idea that doesn't include the suffix -illion, the appointment of an Economic War Cabinet would be a good place to start.