Gene Sperling: Another holdover from the Clinton administration, the head of Obama’s Economic Policy Council is mostly domestically focused but has a voice in all big economic decisions.
Daniel Tarullo: After Ben Bernanke, he was Obama’s most important appointment to the Federal Reserve Board. Another former Clintonite, Tarullo is the “go-to” governor for international coordination on banking standards.
INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: ROMNEY
SPECIFIC POLICY POSITIONS
Mitt Romney, the ex-Wall Street financier, was probably the most enthusiastic of all the Republican primary candidates when it came to pushing free-trade agreements as a means of promoting domestic job growth. He has also aggressively criticized China, which he threatened to label a currency manipulator on “Day One” of his presidency. Romney’s signature proposal is to create a “Reagan Economic Zone” of free-trading nations that will put pressure on rogues like Beijing that flout the rules and steal intellectual capital, as well as other nations that are emulating China, such as Brazil, India, and Russia. Romney respects the World Trade Organization, but he wants to go beyond it in enforcing trade rules and to show that “free-riding is not going to be tolerated any more,” in the words of one adviser.
INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC COORDINATION
The former Massachusetts governor has little experience in this arena. But he is committed to working with the WTO and other dispute-resolution bodies. And he criticizes Obama for a failure of leadership, saying the president lost the moral high ground against China and other nations that flout global economic rules. Obama, says the Romney adviser, “has completely failed to stand up for American interests and protest unfair trade, to the point where he’s actually drifting in the other direction and adopting some of these practices. We can complain about China’s state-owned enterprises, but it’s more difficult to do that if our government owns the automakers” and is subsidizing other industries like green energy.
THE EURO CRISIS
Romney has said that the United States should stay out of the euro crisis, so as not to jeopardize America’s “national balance sheet,” and let the Europeans solve their own problems. He has also hammered Obama for what Romney says is an economic philosophy that “will turn the United States into a European-style entitlement society.” At the same time, however, Romney is looking to enlist the major European nations in his Reagan Economic Zone of like-minded free-trading countries. During his only overseas trip as a candidate so far, he was endorsed by Poland’s legendary freedom fighter, Lech Walesa.
This is by far the most detailed part of Romney’s agenda on the international economy. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has declined to go so far as to label America’s No. 1 financier a “currency manipulator,” but Romney has no such compunctions, saying that it’s time to make an example of China in much the same way President Reagan did with Japan in the 1980s. “He recognizes that free trade only works if it is reciprocal and everyone’s playing by the same rules,” says his adviser. “This is a key reason we have not been able to make progress in the Doha round.” Romney worries, he adds, that “other countries are starting to emulate China” because the U.S. has sacrificed its leadership.
How many jobs Bain sent overseas when Romney was CEO is hardly disqualifying. As FDR once supposedly said of Wall Streeter Joseph Kennedy, the wheeler-dealer he appointed to run the SEC, “It takes one to catch one.”
Romney’s biggest international success was restoring the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which had been scarred by an influence-peddling scandal, to respectability and profitability as 2.1 billion people watched.
When Romney was governor, Massachusetts lost far more manufacturing jobs than it gained, and overseas investment in his state stayed about the same.
THE ‘BAIN MENTALITY’
Democratic critics use this phrase, but Romney defenders say his under-standing of sophisticated finance is a big strength, and he built a $60 billion business out of it.
Oren Cass: The Harvard Law graduate, a veteran of Romney’s 2008 campaign, is the candidate’s domestic-policy director and is responsible for overseeing trade policy.
Glenn Hubbard: The dean of the Columbia Business School and a former chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, he is coauthor of the main document that Romney cites as his plan to add 12 million jobs.
Gregory Mankiw: The Harvard professor and renowned economist is also a coauthor of the chief Romney paper, along with John Taylor of Stanford and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute.
Jim Talent: A former U.S. senator and House member, Talent chaired the Small Business Committee in the House. Talent is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.