In theory, I like the idea of an
Economic Recovery Advisory Board which will provide to the President "a ground-level sense of which programs and policies are working for people, and which aren’t". But I’m not at all convinced that Paul Volcker is the right person to chair such a thing. Volcker is a pointy-headed policymaker, and Obama has more than enough of those already, in the likes of Geithner, Summers, and Orszag.
The stated raison d’être of the ERAB is that "that sometimes policymaking in Washington can become too insular", and that therefore government occasionally needs someone from the real world to slap some reality-based sense into it. Great idea. But Volcker is an old Washington hand and not the right person for this job; I fear that he’ll just be another voice among the rapidly-multiplying ranks of Obama economic advisers. Between Treasury and the CEA and the NEC and the DPC and the OMB and of course his own chief of staff, Obama was hardly lacking for economic advice — but now the ERAB will just be added to the end of an already-long list.
Volcker’s a giant, in more ways than one, and I’m glad he’s going to be playing a role in the Obama administration. But I don’t think that this role suits him well. I’d rather have seen someone more connected to the public mood: Oprah Winfrey, perhaps. Or maybe Obama asked, and she said no.