Bring Your Questions for Outgoing White House Economist Keith Hennessey


Keith Hennessey is the outgoing chief economic adviser to President Bush and director of the National Economic Council. When Obama takes office, Lawrence Summers will take his place.

“Our assumptions are that the economy will begin to recover early in the next president’s term,” Hennessey recently told CNBC, “but it’s too early to say exactly when.” (I can already hear the cynics among you: he’s just setting up his old boss as the real fixer and the new guy as the lucky inheritor.)

Hennessey held this job for just over a year; for the five years before that he was deputy director of the N.E.C. and spent the previous five years working for Trent Lott. He has also done governmental work in health economics and tax reform; early on, in the private sector, he worked on Symantec’s Q&A database program.

There are an awful lot of economic issues to consider these days — the estate tax and gas tax, the T.A.R.P. drawdown, oil prices — to say nothing of the broader recession and the stock-market miasma.

Feel free to ask Hennessey questions about all these subjects and more. I am guessing you will ask far more questions than he’s able to answer, but whatever the case, we will post his replies here in short order.

Addendum: Hennessey answers your questions here.

David Nelson

Bank executives are supposed to be in charge of their own stability. Most banks balance sheets seem to be full of lies. Absolutely nothing should be "off" balance sheet. Dealmakers and other assorted "jerk" salesmen, all with MBA's, should be kept out of the higher management eschelon. All remuneration should be on a 5 year moving average so that increases in salary based on increase in "value" should be on indubitable added value.


@20 Yes, that Larry Summers. However, that is definitly not what he said, he just suggested there might be intrinsic differences in how men and women learn subjects.
A complete lack of understanding of what he said got a great president kicked out of Harvard, and I'm still annoyed at that...


Where did the first $350B in TARP money go?

Mr. Toyo

What convinced the president to change his stance on the bailout for automakers? When making that decision, was it a comparison of the cost of GM/Chrysler's failure (in terms of social welfare programs) versus the cost of a (seemingly likely) loan default?


a trend of globalization seems to be consolidation of investment capital into corporations that are too-big-to-fail- there are already economists that argue that unless there is multilateral coordination amongst nations to bail out the credit corporations, there may be further shockwaves in their respective economies- my question is: will globalization lead to corporate government by fiat- that is, will the too-big-to-fail paradigm encroach on sovereign economic policy, forcing its hand to subsidize these global investment policies?


How much of our current economic and financial markets mess do you attribute to compensation programs that disproportionately rewarded deal making and short term results.

It seemed beyond belief to read that executives (Rubin, as only one example) decided "to forgo bonuses for 2008". How the heck is it possible that leaders could have earned bonuses given the results? Further it seems beyond belief that people should have been paid so much for actions that have destroyed shareholder value.

Could congress or the SEC have a requirement "boards of directors have a fiduciary responsibility to align compensation programs with long term results and durable financial performance"? If so, how likely is it that such a requirement would have changed anything?

Thanks in advance for sharing your insights and perspectives.


If you could go back in time to any point in your tenure as White House Economist, which policies would you change?

Sandra M.

I've noticed you do not have a PhD in Economics. Tim Geithner does not either. Yet you both hold very high national economic policy positions.

Do you think not having a PhD was a disadvantage? I am a recent college grad trying to figure out how much future schooling to do, and I am very interested in knowing exactly how valuable/neccessary a PhD is. If it's mainly used for signaling, how were you able to advance despite not having one? How did you acquire the economics knowledge you needed to understand the economy? Will undergrad courses do the trick?

Thanks a lot!


How long did Henry Paulson take to perfect the signature that's on our bills?


Where will be your next working station?