Bush names investment banker Friedman top economic adviser

Friday, December 13, 2002

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, rejecting protests from supply-side conservatives, named Wall Street investment banker Stephen Friedman on Thursday to head his National Economic Council, completing the top selections for his revamped economic team.

Friedman will replace Lawrence Lindsey, who was ousted last week along with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill when Bush decided he needed a stronger team to deal with the lackluster economy and sell Congress on a new round of tax cuts.

Friedman headed the giant Wall Street investment bank of Goldman Sachs until 1994. Bush praised him as an "innovative economic thinker" who would help the administration promote a new "growth and jobs package" to Congress.

While Bush's choice of railroad executive John W. Snow as his nominee for Treasury secretary had elicited widespread praise, his pick of Friedman stirred opposition among conservative Republicans.

Bush selected Friedman last week, but his appointment was delayed because of health questions and to give White House lawyers time to review his huge investment portfolio. Conservatives used the delay to try to get Bush to reconsider.

Supply siders, who came to prominence with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, believe that tax cuts can lead to more government revenue by spurring increased economic activity.

Conservative concerns

Seeking to allay conservative concerns, Friedman said during a brief White House announcement ceremony that he was committed to pushing a new stimulus package that could total as much as $300 billion in new tax cuts over the next decade.

"I strongly share your conviction, sir, that now is the time for a robust growth and jobs policy," Friedman told Bush.

Friedman, 64, was co-chair of the giant Wall Street investment bank of Goldman Sachs from 1990 to 1994. Friedman, a Republican, shared those posts with Democrat Robert Rubin until Rubin left in 1992 to join the Clinton administration, first in the same position Friedman will hold and then as President Clinton's second Treasury secretary.

Friedman's position does not require Senate approval.

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