Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All the President's Men of Silence

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All the President's Men of Silence

Article excerpt

Byline: LAUREN CHAMBLISS

WITH the US dollar knocked from its seven-year perch, a dozen corporations engulfed in scandal and the accounting system casting a dark shadow over Wall Street, now would be the time for America's top economic officials to show leadership. Instead, the silence from Washington's highest economic echelon is noticeable.

The President's closest economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, once a consultant to Enron, has kept a lower public profile since the energy giant imploded.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt, who preformed admirably in the wake of 11 September, now faces calls for his resignation.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is all but ignored by a White House that once trumpeted his pragmatism and experience.

Only Alan Greenspan, the master at the Federal Reserve who controls the nation's monetary policy, has survived the current turmoil with his reputation relatively untarnished, analysts say.

"The whole Enronitis-issue is weighing on financial markets," says Tim Rogers, chief economist of briefing.com.

"Every time one opens the paper there is another scandal brewing. It would be nice to have some leadership at government agencies, but it's not there."

Lawrence Lindsey is the only economic policymaker who regularly has the President's ear.

A former Federal Reserve governor, Lindsey is responsible for the White House's current view that the economy has a hangover after a decade of excess rather than any systemic flaw that needs major fixing. The President's 10-point plan to address the financial breakdown has been derided as too weak but it is consistent with Lindsey's belief that during a boom, free capital sometimes is wasted.

As long ago as 1996 Lindsey said the stock market was " suffering from a 'gambler's curse' - we have won this long, let us keep the money on the table," recently released transcripts of Federal Reserve policy meetings show. He could not have predicted the hangover would bring him such headaches. …

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